The use of alcohol is expensive as it costs the United States $185 billion in annual expenses. Even then, historically, economic recessions have favored alcohol more than any other intoxicant. When the economy goes down, consumption of alcohol increases notably while the demand for the more expensive substances like cocaine and heroin decreases. 

During one of the previous recessions, 59% of the respondents reported drinking alcohol even when it seemed like they couldn’t afford it. In fact, the group that reported financial problems consumed higher levels of alcohol than those who didn’t report any particular stressors related to the economy. 

Since there’s a solid correlation between alcohol and unemployment, it’s no surprise that 1 in 6 unemployed workers is addicted to alcohol.

But that still doesn’t mean the employed group isn’t falling prey to heavy drinking. A study has revealed that downturns in the economy can make employed individuals indulge in “lower levels of alcohol use during the workday, but higher levels of excessive and ill-timed alcohol use away from work

The prevalence of alcohol was the highest among young adults during the economy slowdown of 2019

The NIDA categorizes young adults into the age groups of ‘18 to 25-year-olds’ and ‘26 or older.’ Their latest report on alcohol addiction confirms that the consumption of alcohol is the highest among young adults with more than 55% of individuals using alcohol for various purposes.  

The reasons are varying and are things that require our attention. Young adults are likely to become heavy drinkers or engage in binge drinking. It’s generally because they are going through a phase where they want to explore everything, which is usually nothing to worry about. 

It’s only a problem when they are drinking because of underlying reasons. Psychological reasons such as PTSD, stress, anxiety, depression, or financial pressure are some of the more concerning reasons that may lead to alcoholism. 

Young adults may also drink to deal with the problems they face in their adult life. Since they are in such an uncomfortable transitional phase, they turn to alcohol to cope with the unfamiliarity. 

Why people turn to alcohol during economic crises

Drinking behavior is shown to be caused by both work and personal life experiences related to economy issues. Alcoholism isn’t gender-specific and is found in both genders. But even though the drinking patterns are similar, economic influences affect men more than women when it comes to drinking. 

One of the common presumptions for that could be the fact that women are encouraged to express more than men, so they don’t have to take to alcohol in order to cope with their stressors as often as men do. 

Besides that, the Brief Michigan Alcoholism Screening Test or BMAST found that both genders experience the same financial stressors that can induce a drinking habit, and they are; homeownership problems and insufficient sick leaves. 

Apart from alcohol being one of the cheapest and most easily accessible substances, here are a few other reasons why people choose to drink when the economy fails them. 

  • Coping mechanism

There’s still a vast knowledge gap among the masses when it comes to mental health. People belonging to low income don’t even consider therapeutic alternatives for relieving stress, let alone opt for them. That’s a major reason why low income is associated with using alcohol as a coping mechanism. Because there’s less access to alternative activities, especially during economic crises, people use alcohol to self-medicate stress.

  • Depression

Depression is as complex as addiction, considering that they are both two types of mental disorders. For this reason, there’s a need for mental health professionals when treating addiction. 

While alcohol may help cope with depression, it’s momentary and doesn’t address the root cause. In the long run, it doesn’t do much for your mental health. But even though people are aware of this, they turn to alcohol because it’s an easy way out.  

  • Unemployment

Socioeconomic and stress-based theories have confirmed that alcoholism can be caused due to unemployment. Researchers studied the results of economic recessions – job loss and economic stress – to conclude that unemployed individuals are at a higher risk of alcohol addiction than those who are employed. 

People also turn to alcohol when they have undesirable living conditions, are stuck in a problematic employment arrangement, and are unemployed or underemployed. 

  • Low-income households

People who grew up in low-income households have more alcohol problems during economic recessions than most of the other groups of individuals because unemployment affects them more than those individuals who grew up in relatively better conditions.  

Vulnerability high among the Black and Latinx communities

Due to the prevailing racial inequalities in the country, the Black and Latinx communities are more vulnerable to alcohol addiction. The underfunding of the public health infrastructure for these ethnic and racial minorities causes them to experience more stress caused by job insecurity.  

The economy’s effects on heavy drinkers vs low drinkers

The effects of an economic recession are amusing on the general public. Historically, people who are heavy drinkers end up drinking less as the economy goes down as they find it difficult to afford alcohol. 

On the contrary, light drinkers end up drinking more to cope with the economic stressors. 

Even those people who are employed and don’t have to worry about arranging for a stable source of income suffer from various work-related stressors such as work overload, job insecurity, and lower quality of work-life, which can lead to them using alcohol.

The effects of budgetary issues for addiction services on the addicts

In a discussion on addiction conducted by the AMA (American Medical Association), Charles Reznikoff, MD, who deals with addiction medicine for Hennepin Healthcare, confirmed that the government has cut the budget for addiction services due to the lack of funds. 

During the discussion, he said that “it feels like taking your snow tires off as winter approaches. I’m really worried about addiction services being cut.”

We know that the public healthcare system has taken a hit and that the charitable alternatives are struggling to fund their efforts. So, the availability of alcohol addiction treatment at the grassroots level is little to none at all. 

But there are several ways to fund your addiction treatment if you’re willing to make immediate changes to your current lifestyle. Check out the financing options that are immediately available for you to take the first step towards leading a cleaner life.   

Talk to Someone Who’s Been There. Talk to Someone Who Can Help. Scottsdale Recovery Center holds the highest accreditation (Joint Commission) and is Arizona’s premier rehab facility since 2007. Call 602-346-9142.

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