The economic costs of addiction

Economic cast of addictionIt is important to note that the economic burden of addiction is difficult to assess, due to limited data on the subject and the wide range of factors that are implicated in it. Therefore, the statistics and calculations on this page are estimates only.

Cost to the NHS and Social Care

  • In 2016 Public Health England estimated that the treatment of addiction and illnesses relating to it costs the NHS £3.5 billion each year.
  • Public Health England also estimates 270,705 people received residential treatment or were in contact with drug and alcohol services.
  • It is estimated that this is equal to an average cost of £13,047 per person in treatment fees.
  • Kennedy Street’s Recovery Connects programme is designed to help people access recovery in the community; it currently has 15 members and is growing. Therefore, based on the current estimated cost of treatment per person in England (£13,047) this has the potential to reduce the economic cost to the NHS by an estimated £19,5712 each year
  • Addiction is also shown to be a key factor in unemployment, with as many as 50,000 people claiming benefits due to their addiction in 2013.



Cost to business

  • UK businesses lose a total of £7.3 billion a year in lost productivity due to addiction, that’s an average cost of £27,213 per employee per year, in small to medium-sized businesses.
  • Furthermore, evidence from Scotland suggests that businesses lose between £866 – £1062 million per year, in costs related to losses of labour and productivity from alcohol misuse alone.
  • The same research also suggests that there is a correlation between addiction and the number of sick days taken by men, with this increasing by 13% compared to employees without addictions.
  • Problematic drinking is linked to higher rates of anxiety and depression, which may cost businesses up to £1.4 billion per year due to lost productivity.
  • Addiction is linked to the reduction of up to 16% of working life per person, due to death and disability.



Crime – the cost to law enforcement and the criminal justice system

In February 2020 Dame Carol Black presented her Review of Drugs. The following data is taken from the evidence pack that accompanied that review, “to provide detailed data on the illicit drug market, its associated harms and the interventions currently in place to tackle and respond to these harms.”

  • According to the latest published government data, drug-related crime places a substantial economic burden on the country, with crimes committed by addicts costing over £9.3 billion per year.
  • Within this overall cost, criminal justice services spend £733 million a year.
  • Furthermore, it is estimated that it costs up to £680 million a year in enforcement costs, including staffing, training, etc.
  • A total of 018,278 crimes were committed by people using drugs in 2017.
  • Robberies and domestic burglaries made up the largest proportion of these, estimated to be 27% of total crime
  • Studies show that those who enter treatment reduce their criminal activity by almost 40%.
  • This reduction in crime is often maintained for as long as the person stays in contact with drug services or recovery community programmes.



The current situation

According to UKAT:

  • 65.7% of people addicted to drugs are employed.
  • 60% of poor job performance is linked to substance use.
  • 40% of industrial accidents are linked to substance use.
  • 24% of workers admitted to drinking during the workday in the past year.
  • 22% of workers admit to making mistakes at work due to having a hangover.
  • 15% of workers admit to being drunk at work at least occasionally.