Addiction Crisis

Society is in the midst of a global public health crisis as addiction and substance dependency rates continue to skyrocket, most potently demonstrated by the opioid crisis.

The collateral damage of addiction destroys lives, families, and is causing major social havoc across the globe. Punitive criminal laws for drug use and possession, current treatment and recovery models, and harm reduction policies have been ineffective in managing this massive public health dilemma.

Addiction or Substance Use Disorder

“Addiction (severe substance use disorder) is a complex condition, a brain disease that is manifested by compulsive substance use despite harmful consequences. People with a substance use disorder have distorted thinking, behavior and body functions. Changes in the brain’s wiring are what cause people to have intense cravings for the drug and make it hard to stop using the drug. These substances can cause harmful changes in how the brain operates. These changes can last long after the immediate effects of the substance.”

American Psychiatry Association

20.1 milion people

had a substance use disorder

15.1 milion people

had an alcohol use disorder

7.4 milion people

had an ilicit drug use disorder

Personal Cost

In 2016, approximately 20.1 million people aged 12 or older had a substance use disorder (SUD)[6] related to their use of alcohol or illicit drugs in the past year, including 15.1 million people[7] who had an alcohol use disorder and 7.4 million people[8] who had an illicit drug use disorder. An estimated 2.1 million people[9] had an opioid use disorder, which includes 1.8 million people with a prescription pain reliever use disorder and 0.6 million people with a heroin use disorder.[10]


The CDC has compiled statistics concluding that, “drug overdose deaths continue to increase in the United States. From 1999 to 2017, more than 702,000 people have died from a drug overdose. In 2017, more than 70,000 people died from drug overdoses, making it a leading cause of injury-related deaths in the United States. Of those deaths, almost 68% involved a prescription or illicit opioid.”[24]

Social Cost

Addiction disorder is a growing diagnosis and continues to affect a broadening section of the population. The consequences of this hastening crisis is not isolated to individual’s and their families, it indiscriminately crosses all demographic and socio economic lines and therefore impacts society as a whole.

The number of people afflicted with substance use disorder has reached epidemic proportions and in 2017 the American President declared the opioid crisis a Public Health Emergency. The empirical data is frightening:

“Drug and alcohol abuse inflicts incalculable harm on public health and safety around the world each year, and threatens the development and smooth functioning of many societies. An understanding of the economic costs to society at large of substance abuse is necessary to develop policies that reduce such costs.”[11]

442 Billion USD

annually both directly and in terms of opportunity cost[11]

The Surgeon General of the United States estimated[11] in 2015 that alcohol and drug addiction cost the taxpayer $442 billion annually both directly and in terms of opportunity cost. Some factors contributing to the financial and social costs of addiction disorders are[11]:

  • Drug prevention and treatment
  • Healthcare costs in connection with abuse of substances: overdoses, psychotic episodes, etc
  • Drug affected driving
  • Crime - dealing, violence, compulsive crime (to feed the habit)
  • Prison & correctional services
  • Impact on productivity (non participation in the labour force)
  • Children exposed to illicit drugs after birth may suffer significant problems that require additional care, resulting in both personal expenses and costs to society
  • Low income communities often have less access to support systems, health care and community organizations, and rampant addiction disorder
  • contributes to keeping people in a cycle of poverty and ill-health
See our Business Case