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The Real Cost of Addiction

Posted by Martin Preston
on 15 Nov 2022

What’s included?

  1. Introduction
  2. How much is the average binge drinker spending on alcohol?
  3. How much does the UK spend on drugs each year?
  4. The impact of alcoholism in the workplace
  5. The impact of drug use on relationships
  6. The impact of drink and drugs on your mental well-being
  7. Methodology

When people hear the word ‘cost’, it would be fair to assume that their minds would jump to thinking of money and finances. However, when it comes to addiction, the word ‘cost’ can have an array of different, tragic meanings. For example, there is the cost inflicted on the person suffering with addiction’s family, friends, health, emotions, and much more – which is, arguably, more damaging than anything financial ever could be. 

For this reason, we have researched into how damaging active addiction can be in the UK, by breaking down the amount of money people in different stages of addiction would spend on drugs and alcohol. We’ve also analysed how addiction can impact performance in the workplace, the detrimental effect it can have on relationships and lastly the mental and physical effect addiction has on the body and mind. Our findings allowed us to create The Real Cost of Addiction Report.

This report takes into account the cost of being an average drinker, a binge drinker and a person with a substance abuse disorder across different time periods, as well as the impact having a cannabis or Class A drug addiction would have on your bank balance. Along with this, we delved deeper into the real effect that substance abuse has on relationships and mental well-being. 

How much is the average binge drinker spending on alcohol? 

Founder and Chief Executive, Martin Preston has shared his insight on the issue:

“It’s no secret that alcohol, especially in large quantities, is not cheap. It was revealed that the average price of alcohol in the UK had risen by 15 pence between 2021 and 2022, signifying a 4% increase from 2008. Due to this, more and more people are breaking the bank to consume their favourite alcoholic drinks.”

First of all, we looked into the average cost of alcohol in the UK for different types of beverages, such as spirits, beer, cocktails and wine to determine just how much people with different levels of alcohol consumption rates would spend. 

These levels were determined by examining the NHS website which allows you to calculate alcohol units, resulting in the creation of this formula: strength (ABV) x volume (ml) ÷ 1,000 = units.

It was revealed that the cost of wine for a ‘normal’ drinker would be an alarming £10,842 over the duration of five years. When it comes to beer, typically seen as a more casual drink, the price tag is still astronomical at £4,285, over a five year period. 

However, if this seems steep, our data revealed that a binge drinker in the UK spends a whopping £16,263 on wine and £10,712 on beer. When it came to cocktails, it was highlighted that binge drinkers splashed out £13,140 over five years. 

Worryingly, the numbers climb dramatically when it comes to individuals who abuse alcohol, as the cost of wine per year was sitting at £75,894. Beer was only marginally better at £37,492, while cocktails cost £65,702 per five years. 

These numbers shine a light on the terrifying amount of money that is spent on alcohol in the UK alone, with even the cost of being a casual drinker racking up. 

The consumption of alcohol has a huge impact on diminishing your inhibitions and also rationale, this may be one of the reasons that people deep in their active addictions cannot make responsible decisions when it comes to their finances. 

How much does the UK spend on drugs each year? 

Dr Catherine Carney Psychiatrist at Delamere has shared her thoughts:

“Much like alcohol, drugs are renowned for limiting your ability to make rational decisions. All drugs have an impact on the neurotransmitters in your brain, causing the signals being sent to become less clear. Substances like cocaine have the ability to make people feel more confident and, therefore, more likely to take risks. 

“This would go hand-in-hand with losing control of your finances, as you may feel certain about taking out a loan to pay for drugs or withdrawing a large amount of money.” 

When it comes to drugs, from cannabis to Class As, the UK has another large problem to tackle. It was revealed by Statista that 29.6% of people between the ages of 16 and 59 had tried cannabis at least once in their lives, so it’s no surprise that even the average user spends around £1,560 a year.

The financial cost is based on a usage of 3 grams per week, which is the average dosage for typical cannabis users. Over 5 years, this works out to £7,800, while 10 years saw the typical cannabis smoker spending a whopping £15,600

For Class A drugs, the financial burden was even heavier. The financial cost is based on one measurement per week, which allowed us to break down the regular yearly cost of these substances. 

Cocaine and MDMA were a staggering £2,080 per year, while Ketamine users spend £1,560. Heroin users were revealed to spend around £520 per year, while ecstasy pills were found to cost £780 per year. In 2020, it was highlighted that a staggering 1.1 million people between 16 to 59 had tried a Class A drug, once again making the issue the UK has with substances glaringly obvious. 

The impact of alcoholism in the workplace 

Martin Preston has expressed his views on this matter:

“Aside from having the ability to leave you destitute, alcohol can have a far more sinister impact on your life and actually alienate you from your employer and work colleagues. It can cause you to become aggressive and careless, which would inevitably lead to you neglecting your role and causing a divide between you and colleagues.

“With this in mind, it is important to remember that nobody chooses alcoholism as a path in life – addiction happens to people for an array of different reasons, usually stemming from trauma or grief. While it may seem as though somebody suffering from a substance abuse disorder is being deliberately self-destructive, this could not be further from the truth.”

All employers have a duty of care when it comes to their workforce, especially if the individual in question has turned to alcohol to cope with work-related stress. However, under the Health and Safety Act, somebody that is intoxicated cannot legally be allowed to work. This means that if an individual arrives at work under the influence, the employer would legally have to send them home. 

Alcohol has a massive impact on your brain, affecting speech, balance, and even memory. All of these things would be catastrophic in the workplace, and make someone suffering from alcoholism unable to do their job properly – if at all. 

A recent study revealed that minimised productivity in the workplace, caused by alcohol, costs the UK economy around £7 billion every year. The same study stated that 3% to 4% of absences were caused by alcoholism, shining a light on how debilitating addiction can be. 

However, another recent article disclosed that as many as half of UK workers used alcohol to de-stress after a day at the office, suggesting that there is further action to be taken by employers to make managing workloads more bearable. Using alcohol to wind down after a hectic day is destined to create a vicious cycle of dependency, which could lead to the person suffering eventually losing their job altogether. 

The impact of drug use on relationships 

Dr Catherine Carney communicated her feelings on the problem:

“Drugs can tear friends and families apart. Desperation caused by people needing to consume drugs or alcohol can lead to them stealing from the ones they love the most, as well as lying to them and becoming generally impossible to trust.

“While many families will remain supportive, it is common that people with relatives that have suffered from addiction for many years may choose to cut ties, in order to protect their own mental health

“This kind of decision is never easy and can either be the push that the individual needs to get help. However, it can also be the final straw that leads them to feel that they now have no incentive to get better. Either way, drugs and close relationships are rarely combinations that have longevity.”

Individuals battling addiction can have the tendency to lie and be dishonest. These lies usually refer to whether they have consumed any of their chosen substance or not, or being dishonest about the amount they have taken. 

Lying can very often be a coping mechanism, as the individual could be concerned that the family member or friend would force them to go ‘cold turkey’ and be sober for an extended period of time. 

It could also be a way to avoid an argument, as frustration levels are guaranteed to be running high when living with somebody suffering from active addiction. As well as this, a lot of Class A drugs can give somebody the feeling of grandiosity and lead to delusional thoughts – especially cocaine. 

This is caused by a rush of euphoria, which is down to your nervous system pumping out more dopamine than usual. Other common consequences of cocaine use are aggression and violence, which can cause rifts in relationships for obvious reasons. 

Another common reason for relationships ending is stealing. A 2022 article revealed that there were almost 300,000 people suffering from crack cocaine and heroin addiction in the UK and that these individuals were to blame for around half of robberies and burglaries in the country. This could be directly linked to the deterioration of relationships as individuals steal from their loved ones to fuel their addiction. 

The impact of drink and drugs on your mental well-being

Finally, we broke down the overall effect that substance abuse has on your mind and mental health. The mental well-being charity Mind highlighted that long-term drug abuse can actually lead to severe illnesses, such as schizophrenia and depression. These two mental illnesses would then, in turn, require you to take medication to control them – calling attention to the fact that drugs can, indeed, have life-long implications. 

Alcohol is a known depressant, despite promoting a brief feeling of stimulation for the user. Drinking alcohol impacts the neurotransmitter gamma-aminobutyric acid in your brain which, in turn, slows down how you react to things and can make you feel extremely low. 

Due to the short-lived euphoria that alcohol offers, many people find themselves becoming addicted as they attempt to chase the ‘happy’ feeling that it gives them. However, the more often you drink, the more your tolerance builds up, making it harder and harder for you to feel any kind of ‘buzz’ after drinking. 

Another aspect of drug dependency can be drug-induced psychosis. This refers to hallucinations due to taking too much of a certain substance for too long. It can cause people to think that certain smells are present when they are not, as well as making the individual more likely to experience visual hallucinations. 

Psychosis alone can make the individual suffering with the substance use disorder more likely to become paranoid and anxious, as well as becoming confused and aggressive as they do not know the difference between reality and what is in their mind. 

Martin Preston concluded:

“The list of negative consequences that drugs and alcohol can have on your mental health is, sadly, extremely long. While many people reach for these substances as a way to relax after work or cope with difficult feelings, it is all too easy to slip into dependency – which is where the risk of long-term symptoms becomes more likely. 

“Seeking help sooner rather than later is the most effective way for an individual suffering from alcohol to wean off the harmful substance. As this report highlights, the outcome of drug and alcohol dependency goes a lot further than losing money. It can drive away the most precious people in your life, and that kind of damage can be irreparable. 

“Whether you or a friend or family member is suffering from addiction, it is crucial to remember that you are not alone.”


To discover the financial cost of alcoholism we analysed the average cost of wine, spirits, beer and cocktails in the UK, using ons economy data. We then used NHS data to determine the average measurement consumed by a casual drinker, binge drinker and alcoholic. 

Based on average units per week: 

Normal Mesaure – 14 units 

Binge Drinker: 22 units 

Alcoholic: 100 units

Using this information, we were able to uncover how much a person will spend on alcohol over a one, five, ten and twenty year period. 

Calculation: Average cost of 1 drink x average units x usage per week = total cost 

To uncover the financial cost of drug addiction we used the average cost of drug measurements in the UK and discovered how much the average user, based on a one, two and three measurement would spend over a a one, five, ten and twenty year period. 

Calculation: Average cost of drug x measurement x usage = total cost

About the author: Martin Preston

Martin created Delamere in order to provide exemplary care in first class facilities. Find out more about Martin on our team page.

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