Society Spends Billions on Top Addictions

By Teresa Tait

A recent study shows that alcohol, smoking, drugs, overeating
and gambling are the five most costly addictions to society.

The cost of these addictions is approximately $590 billion per
year, most of which is in lost productivity at work and medical
treatment. However, this cost is strictly what the economy pays,
and does not include the amount of money people spend annually on
their own to feed these addictions.

While alcohol topped the list, costing an estimated $166 billion
each year, most students felt that smoking was the most

“Most students who drink only do it once or twice a week,” said
Elizabeth Borm, a third-year liberal studies student. “People who
smoke usually smoke once or twice a day, sometimes even more. That
really adds up.”

With a pack of cigarettes costing around $5, it is definitely an
expensive habit to become addicted to. The cost for medical
treatment needed as a result of smoking, however, is far more.

Last year, $157 billion was spent on smoking, with $75 billion
of that spent on medical expenses, which is nearly four times what
was spent on alcohol treatment.

Drugs came in third on the list, with an estimated annual cost
of $110 billion. Most drug addicts also tend to be alcoholics,
which may help push alcohol to its number one spot. Crystal
methamphetamine is becoming more popular among college students, as
well as marijuana, cocaine and heroin.

Overeating is becoming more of a concern for students whose
schedule lends itself to eating whenever and whatever they want.
Students also tend to eat more during stressful times, such as
midterms or finals week.

“It’s college and you have more freedom. People tend to abuse
it,” said Sean Prenevost, a third-year civil engineering

Although overeating may not have too much of an affect now, it
takes its toll later on. Overeating increases the risk of many
serious health problems, such as heart disease, osteoarthritis,
hypertension, gall bladder disease and cancer. The majority of the
$107 billion spent each year due to overeating went towards health
care and treatment.

The estimated annual cost of gambling each year is around $40
billion, which is a significant drop from the cost of overeating.
With the increasing popularity of internet gambling, addictions are
becoming more serious.

“It’s an easy outlet,” said Chris Ogaz, a fourth-year civil
engineering student. “You don’t have to drive anywhere. All you
have to do is sit down in front of your computer.”

The drive to win back their losses often keeps gamblers coming
back for more. This sometimes leads to job loss and bankruptcy. In
the most extreme cases gambling can lead to crimes like forgery and
embezzlement just to pay off debts.

While some students feel the pressure to join with these
activities is too strong, others disagree.

“Sure, there are pressures to partake in them, but I’m not
afraid of becoming addicted to anything because you have your own
path in life and should be strong enough to make your own
decisions,” said Ryan McConville, a first-year undeclared

For students that find themselves caught in an addiction, it is
important to seek help immediately. Whether it is going to a
professional or going to a friend, stopping the addiction while it
is in its beginning stages insures a healthier future, and can save
a lot of money in the long run.

Teresa Tait can be reached by e-mail at or
by phone at (909) 869-3744.

Society Spends Billions on Top Addictions

Society Spends Billions on Top Addictions

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