As stereotypes go, drug addiction is a problem that tends to be linked with poverty. While it is true that poverty is a risk factor for developing an addiction, there are quite a few other factors that have nothing to do with socioeconomic status, such as mental health and family history. The stereotype that poverty leads to addiction is an inaccurate one – it’s just that people who are in lower socioeconomic classes will tend to encounter certain risk factors more frequently than the wealthy.
With that being said, wealth comes with its own set of risks too.
One study reveals the risk for substance abuse is significant at the other end of the socioeconomic spectrum: among kids who grow up in wealthy, white collar families. The fact of the matter is that many of the risk factors that lead to addiction among the impoverished could just as likely lead to addiction among the affluent as well.
Let’s have a look at the factors that lead to drug addiction among the affluent.
Easier Access to Drugs and Alcohol
First and most obvious, alcohol and drugs cost money, which the wealthy have in greater abundance. Teenagers from wealthy families tend to have more disposable personal money than those from poorer ones. What’s more, the research shows that they’re likelier to use their pocket money to obtain alcohol and drugs than their poorer counterparts.
Because wealthier youths have easier access to addictive substances, they’re at a relatively higher risk to develop addictions from a very young age. In fact, studies show that a good deal of wealthy addicts will have started using drugs and alcohol before they were 18.
Additionally, affluent parents tend to have health insurance of the highest quality. What this means within the context of this article is that wealthy households will have whole medicine cabinets dedicated to storing prescription medications. All a teen in such a home has to do is to open the medicine cabinet. Alternatively, they could raid their parents’ liquor cabinet too. Easy access to both cash and addictive substances paves the way for temptation for the typical teenager as well as their friends.
So what makes these wealthy kids likely to abuse the drugs and alcohol that are within their reach? Well, apart from greater disposable income, the answer seems to be two major factors: the pressure to succeed (and the stress that comes with that), as well as a lack of parental supervision due to disconnected familial ties. Family dynamics, therefore, play a key part in creating the kind of atmosphere that makes affluent teenagers more susceptible to substance abuse and addiction than their less wealthy friends.
Stress and the Pressure to Succeed
It should come as no surprise that teenagers are vulnerable to stress. As students, teenagers are expected to work hard and excel academically so they can go to a good college. The definition of a good college, however, will be influenced in part by your socioeconomic status. For example, low income families may find the idea of their teenager graduating high school and getting into a quality community college to be a thrilling one. Teens from affluent families, however, are likelier to have parents with somewhat heightened expectations – nothing will do other than getting into an Ivy League college, for instance.
Children from wealthy families are likelier to get into Ivy League schools: they often have legacies, their parents are able to make large donations to the schools, are connected to powerful networks, and they have access to resources such as SAT coaches and interview coaches. That said, they still tend to be under significant amounts of stress from the pressure of living up to their parents’ expectations. This stress will often morph into more serious problems like anxiety and depression.
Of course, there is nothing negative about being focused on one’s studies and working hard to achieve excellence in academics and extracurricular activities. But when it comes to affluent kids, that’s often not all there is to it. The intense pressure they face from their family and the wider world they live in will often turn them to substance abuse in order to cope with the stress.
Weak Familial Ties and a Lack of Parental Supervision
It’s one of those clichés with some truth to them – affluent teens are less likely to develop healthy relationships with their parents. This is in part due to these teens being left home alone for a substantially higher number of hours per week as their parents pursue busy careers. These long hours away from home can lead to weak parent-child relationships: a factor present in drug abuse.
Children who have a strong relationship with their parents are at the least risk of alcohol or drug abuse and addiction. Unfortunately, many highly successful professionals do not have enough time to spend with their children every day. These weak familial ties also mean there will be a lack of parental supervision. Parents who aren’t around cannot stop their children from pilfering their medicine or liquor cabinets, after all.
The results of one particular study published in the journal Development and Psychopathology are especially troubling. According to this, the rates of drinking to intoxication are higher among wealthier students than among kids in the general US population, and twice as high when it comes to taking stimulant drugs or experimenting with cocaine.
By age 26, women from wealthier upbringings were three times as likely to be addicted to alcohol or drugs than the national average for women, and men from wealthier upbringings were twice as likely to be addicted than the national average for men.
Kids Don’t Necessarily “Grow out of It”
Affluent parents may believe that their kids will grow out of their adolescent phase of experimentation with drugs and alcohol. However, this is not the case for many kids. Parents whose kids are high-functioning despite drug abuse may also not take this seriously, since the kids are performing well academically.
Affluent kids may be privileged, but they’re still vulnerable to drug and alcohol abuse, and this vulnerability may translate to a long term addiction. The stress they face in high school can also compel them to turn to drinks and drugs as a coping mechanism. Get in touch with one of the professionals at Scottsdale Recovery Center to find out how we can be of assistance.
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 2009. Call 602-346-9142.