Poverty & Drug Abuse



One of the most popular stereotypes about drug use is that it is more prevalent among the poor.  This is not completely true however as the lack of money itself does not seem to be associated with drug use. The relationship is complex and causation of poverty is multifaceted. Features of poverty include; low-status and low-skilled jobs, unstable family and interpersonal relationships, illegitimacy, dropping out of school, high arrest rates, high incidence of mental disorders, poor physical health, and high mortality rates. These factors are similar to conditions that affect drug use.

Drug use and addiction have no single cause but the risk factors for drug use include poverty. A person in an impoverished situation may abuse drugs or alcohol as a way to cope with the dangerous environment she lives in, a way to deal with her financial stresses or a way to cope with physical or emotional abuse. Many times, drugs and alcohol are easily accessible in impoverished neighborhoods where some people actually sell drugs in hopes of overcoming poverty.

Research done by Robert Kaestner, ” Does Drug Use Cause Poverty?” (1999) indicated that marijuana and cocaine use significantly increases the probability of being poor. Drug users had lower family incomes and were more likely to participate in public assistance programmes.

Local research has seen a strong correlation between substance use and abuse and homelessness. In Jamaica, the National Council on Drug Abuse manages a project that targets homeless substance abusers and has found that the prevalence of 75% substance use in our homeless population in Kingston and St. Andrew.

The impact of drug use and poverty also affects impoverished young women who are forced into risky sexual relations with partners for monetary rewards.

Perhaps the greatest impact of poverty on the life of a drug user is how it can make prevention and treatment efforts inaccessible to that person.

One of the most significant risk factors for people who suffer the effects of poverty and substance abuse is access to appropriate health services. For people with adequate money or health insurance and time available, there are several private drug treatment centres. For those who do not have the resources available to them, treatment and detoxification can be difficult to find and utilize.

The National Council on Drug Abuse however provides access to treatment and rehabilitation to the poor and or homeless through its community and street based initiatives. Call for help toll free at 1-888-991-4244 or text 564- DRUG.