top of page

Addiction and Poverty: Is There Really a Correlation?

There’s a misconception out there that drug addicts, regardless of whether it’s prescription drugs, illegal drugs or alcohol, are poor, uneducated and homeless. But the truth is, that’s just not true. Most people struggle with addition live in a home, have a job and have at least some level of education. What causes or leads someone to be addicted or use drugs has more to do with their genetics, environmental influences, mental health, education, stress and parental substance abuse.

Although there is not a causation between poverty and drug use, there is a correlation. Why? It mostly has to do with the stress that poverty causes. The St. Joseph Institute of Addiction says:

  • Poverty increases stress. Stress is well recognized as a risk factor for substance abuse and relapse after treatment. Worrying about how to afford shelter, food, and other basic needs causes a tremendous amount of stress. When you’re struggling to make ends meet, there is a great temptation to turn to drugs or alcohol to temporarily escape from your problems.

  • Poverty increases feelings of hopeless. When meeting daily expenses is difficult, dreams of attending college, buying a home, opening a business, or traveling the world seem impossible. Feeling as though you are powerless over your own future creates a vulnerability to substance abuse.

  • Poverty decreases self-esteem. In a culture that values material possessions and financial success, being poor can feel like a moral failing. This can lead to feelings of guilt, shame, and diminished self-worth. According to Psychology Today, people struggling with low self-esteem have an increased vulnerability to developing substance use disorders.

  • Poverty decreases social support. Having the emotional support of friends and family helps people cope with difficult situations in their lives. However, lower income adults are less likely to have strong social support networks simply because they are expending all of their energy on trying to survive from day to day. For example, a UCLA survey found that lower income adults are less likely to be married even though they value marriage just as much as their higher income peers.

Poverty can lead someone to use drugs, but drug use can also lead someone into poverty. There are many middle class and upper class individuals who have fallen into poverty because of their drug use. “Middle class individuals can also slip into addiction-related poverty by selling assets or dipping into retirement savings to buy drugs or alcohol. Untreated addiction impairs judgement and critical thinking skills, which can lead someone who is normally very financially responsible to burn through decades of accumulated wealth in just a short time” (St Joseph Institute of Addiction). And once in poverty, they face the same issues that others in poverty do and often are unable to escape.

Poverty is not a determining factor of drug use, however, someone who lives in poverty is more likely to use drugs than someone who can provide adequately for all their needs. Although we do not condone drug use, we are always willing to help anyone, regardless of their circumstances, escape poverty.

Drug use and addiction can damage the lives of anyone. If you or someone you know needs helps beating their addiction, call the SAMSHA’s free hotline.

Want to Help People in Need?

  • Donate | We use your money to help run our programs, and provide training that helps organizations and individuals make their way to self-sufficiency. You can donate on our web page or find an agencies local to you.

  • Volunteer | We can’t do this alone. Join us! Find one of our agencies in your county and check out their website for volunteer opportunities.

  • Become a Member | Did you know you can become a Community Action Member? Membership provides discounted tickets to our various events, an inside look into our organization and more. Membership fees start at only $25 a year for an individual, or $300 for an agency.

  • Partner with Us | We are humbled by the many non-profit and for-profit organizations that partner with us to bring services, educations and events to North Carolina. If your organization is looking for a non-profit to partner with, please consider us. Email us at We would love to hear from you!

24,459 views2 comments


The correlation between addiction and poverty is a complex and multifaceted issue. While poverty can increase stress and limit access to healthcare, leading to higher addiction rates, addiction can also perpetuate poverty by impairing one's ability to work and maintain stable relationships. Access to quality treatment is crucial for breaking this cycle. Luxury rehab centres, such as the Canadian Centre for Addictions, offer a comprehensive approach to recovery, providing a supportive and comfortable environment. Investing in such treatment can significantly improve outcomes, regardless of one's socioeconomic background. Addressing both addiction and poverty requires holistic solutions that consider the individual's entire situation.


This part is contradictory "Although there is not a causation between poverty and drug use, there is a correlation. Why? It mostly has to do with the stress that poverty causes." Then lists all of the reasons why poverty leads to drug abuse. I think they are trying to make the point that the correlation is not entirely casual. But if Poverty leads to issues with stress, helplessness, self esteem and social support, and that makes people susceptible to drug addiction, then that absolutely is causal.

bottom of page