Poverty is a major contributing factor in substance abuse among people in Florida and throughout the United States. Although addiction affects people from all socioeconomic backgrounds, it is prevalent among people who are below the poverty line. Data from the 2010-2019 census in Florida shows that 12.7% of the population lives in poverty. Addiction detox and treatment centers are working hard to combat the problems of poverty and substance abuse in Florida. 

Why Poverty Fuels Substance Abuse

Although poverty does not always lead to substance abuse, the effects that it has on a person can lead to substance seeking. These are some of the most common effects of poverty that place people at a higher risk of developing an addiction:

Poverty Makes Good Healthcare Less Accessible

Despite the reform initiatives that took place over the last decade, many adults remain uninsured because they cannot afford health insurance or do not know all their options. While the national average of uninsured adults was 9.2% in 2019, the average in Florida was 13.2%.

Orange County’s manager of mental health and homeless issues said that about 70% of Floridians who need mental health services cannot access them.[3] There are more than 180,000 children and 660,000 adults who need care for schizophrenia, depression, bipolar disorder or another mental illness in the state. Florida ranks 49th among the 50 states for mental health programs. The cost of mental health services is high, and not all insurance policies cover it. When people cannot access the help they need, they often turn to drugs or alcohol.

Poverty Decreases Hope

Low-Income Addiction Treatment Options for People in Florida

Struggling between paychecks or gigs can keep people stuck in a cycle. If they work a lot for a small amount of pay, they may not have time to take classes or look for a different job. Some people may have health issues or a disability as well. Family obligations and a lack of education can also increase stress. When people feel hopeless, they often place less value on life. They may feel like there is no point of trying to struggle to survive. Instead of trying to pay bills, they may turn to substances to cope, leading individuals to start spending more money on drugs and alcohol.

In addition to having a lack of confidence, many people can develop low self-esteem from being in perpetual poverty. Lacking self-esteem is more dangerous since it creates psychological and emotional barriers to seeking success, and it is a common problem that leads people who are in poverty to addiction. People who live in poverty often fear ridicule from others in society, and that can keep people from reaching their full potential.

Poverty Limits Social Support

According to research, poverty has negative effects on relationships with family and friends. For those who live in poverty, working hard to survive becomes the top priority. Since many people in Florida who struggle with substance use disorders live in larger cities, they face a higher cost of living. They may work two or more jobs just to make ends meet. If they have a family, they have even less time to seek emotional support from friends or family members. Instead, they turn to drugs or alcohol.

Social support is a critical component of recovery, and it is one that addiction counselors emphasize during treatment. Without the support of others, people in poverty face a higher risk of developing depression or other mental health issues. Research shows that the brain perceives social interactions as rewards, and the behavior that leads people to seek rewards is similar to seeking a drug or alcohol. People who have more access to the social support they need are less likely to turn to a substance.

Poverty Increases Stress

Stress is something that every person experiences. However, the sources of stress can vary and it commonly affects those in poverty for different reasons than it would for people who are more financially comfortable. For example, a single woman who has children may have stress because she worries about how to support her kids and still spend time with them. A single man who takes care of a disabled parent at home may feel stress over how to pay for a medication for the parent. Stress over money, work, food and housing issues are all common.

People are naturally prone to try to alleviate stress, and substance use is a solution that many choose. Although some may tell themselves that it is a temporary solution, it usually becomes an addiction. People who develop an addiction because of stress face complicated issues in recovery. This is because it can also lead them to seek a substance and relapse.

When a person who enters treatment faces poverty and stress, the treatment team helps the person identify triggers. They also help the person find ways to deal with or avoid triggers. Additionally, treatment facilities can help people gain more confidence to seek training. This gives them the ability to find a better job or improve their financial situation.

How Substance Abuse Leads To Poverty

While poverty often contributes to substance abuse, the reverse is also common. When people who do not live in poverty abuse a substance, they can experience negative outcomes that lead to it. These are some examples of contributing problems that often come from substance abuse:

  • Homelessness
  • Income or assistance loss
  • Financial troubles
  • Loss of relationships
  • Mental health decline
  • Legal trouble

Job and Assistance Loss

A person may lose a job and lose their income. Many low-income people depend on government benefits. There are rules in place that limit or deny their access to certain government benefits if they have a history of substance abuse. For example, researchers who studied people in poverty with substance abuse noted that the suspension of SSI payments contributed to a loss of income. Since their disabilities were from substance abuse, the government suspended the payments. The researchers said that some of the people in poverty may not be in that position if they still had those benefits.

Poverty and Substance Abuse

Legal and Financial Trouble

Another problem is that many people who abuse substances wind up in legal trouble if they do not seek help. If a drug or DUI charge turns into a conviction that leads to jail time, that can worsen financial troubles after release. This is especially true for incarcerated women. After a person has a criminal record, it is harder to find good employment, housing and some resources.

People struggling with addiction may spend so much money on drugs or alcohol that bills become unaffordable. They may fall behind on mortgage or car payments. Since people with addiction put the substance first, they may sell their belongings. People often sell televisions, jewelry or other valuable items for money to feed the addiction. They may even lose their homes or be forced to leave their living situation.

Mental Health Decline and Loss of Relationships

An addiction can lead to other problems that complicate it. For example, a lack of social support can lead to depression and substance seeking. If a person loses family and friends because of the addiction, it only increases the desire to abuse a substance. Perhaps a married woman with an addiction sells her wedding ring and other jewelry gifts from her husband to buy drugs. If her husband does not understand addiction, he may leave her or treat her badly. If a young man with an addiction steals things from family members to sell, they may cut off communications.

Many people misunderstand addiction and the behaviors it creates, and they cut off people instead of trying to help them. If you know someone who behaves differently because of addiction, it is important to try to help.

Low-Income Addiction Treatment Options for People in Florida

It is important to have access to treatment to overcome addiction and learn how to cope with stress. Many people do not know that their insurance covers rehab and addiction treatment. The Health Insurance Marketplace provides access to affordable health plans that comply with the Affordable Care Act’s rules. When the ACA went into effect, it included substance use disorder treatment as one of the 10 major components of essential health benefits.

Additionally, the ACA included mental health services as essential benefits. People who enroll in health coverage through the marketplace have the assurance of choosing plans that include these benefits. People with low income also qualify for a state tax credit, which may apply toward the premium of a quality plan. For example, someone who qualifies for a monthly credit of $400 may find a plan that costs $430. The monthly premium would be $30. For some people, credits may completely cover premiums for certain plans. Some people qualify for a special enrollment period, so it helps to check eligibility.

Another option for many low-income people in Florida is to check eligibility for Medicare or Medicaid. Also, it helps to reach out to a treatment facility. A treatment center often knows of state, county or city programs that exist to help people who face poverty and substance abuse get the quality treatment they deserve. If you or a loved one need more information about resources for treatment, please contact us. Our team works hard to help people regain control of their lives and break the cycle of addiction.