Higher Income Brackets and Substance Problems

Doctors and Drug AbusePeople in higher income brackets are, like the rest of us, vulnerable to substance problems, but their different financial situations can pose specific risks that people with lower incomes do not have. With that said, problematic substance use can be found among all demographic populations in our country–across race, ethnicity, education levels, occupations and income brackets.

For example, there is a strong correlation between drinking patterns and earnings. Among those who earn 75,000 and up, research shows that alcohol use increases. More in this higher earning bracket are likely to report alcohol use in the last 24 hours than in lower income brackets. It is significant, too, that these reports are simply of having frequent use, not particularly of having a drinking problem and self-reporting it. A research project in Britain found that people in higher paying jobs tend to drink more frequently than adults who have lower incomes. On the average, higher paid earners drank 5 times per week, for example.

There also appears to be to be higher rates of alcohol use reported by those with higher educational statuses. Again, this is not clearly indicative of problematic drinking, but are self-reports of consuming alcohol regularly. Many people fall into both these categories–earning higher wages and having higher education levels. It is estimated that approximately 78% of people with income of $75,000 or above consume alcohol, compared with 45% of those with an annual income of less than $30,000. Additionally, over 80% of college graduates report drinking, compared to less than 52% of people with a high-school education or less.

Of course, all of this leads to speculation about why people with higher earnings and higher education drink more often. And, one obvious conclusion is that they can afford to drink more frequently. (Higher education levels are also associated with higher earning capacity). However, other speculation, too, is that they are involved in more events and activities that include alcohol. Also, many with higher earnings may also work longer hours or take less time off routinely than those with less income. Substance use in these cases can be a quick stress relief when downtime is limited.

Affluence and Substance Use

Among the wealthy, or those in the top financial percentages, alcohol use continues to be disproportionately reported compared to other financial brackets, and it is often thought that an affluent culture contributes to more frequent alcohol use. Affluence is typically associated with leisure time and daily life activities can more readily involve frequent social events, restaurant meals, travel and the like. Also, people with wealth do not always have the need to be sober for a work day or other obligations, for example. However, there are also other, less privileged factors that may contribute.

The Pressures of Upper-Income Families

Those who grow up in affluence, or even simply in upper income working families, often appear privileged to the onlooker, and indeed, they are in many ways. They are likely to have their survival and material needs met consistently and to have many of their wishes for things that money can buy fulfilled as well. However, other stressors and conditions occur in some such families that increase the vulnerability to substance use. For example, many people with higher incomes have demanding careers that leave home life and the relationships there strained or unsupported.

In families with higher incomes, there is often more social prominence as well. Along with greater recognition in the community, can come high expectations and pervasive social pressures for behavior, appearances, and achievement. This more socially pressurized lifestyle can contribute to substance problems in several ways. Among the vulnerabilities for substance problems are access to substances through money and the need for stress relief with self-medication of lifestyle related distress.

Another major concern for members of such families is that a person who needs help with a substance problem may not seek it. Rather, to ‘save face’ the problem may be ignored or secreted away for fear of embarrassment, shame and humiliation. Unfortunately, it is always more helpful to have early treatment, and a good deal of the time one suffers from an addiction can be eliminated with early intervention.

When Money Enables Addiction

One of the most common safety nets for a progressing substance problem is that negative consequences of addiction will grab our attention, bringing us to our senses that something must be changed. When money is readily available, some of those attention grabbers don’t apply, or can be readily handled. For example, many have a profound ‘wake up call’ when the loss of a job occurs due to substance related performance decline, or when all the money has been spent on drugs instead of bills. Also, many decide to seek help for substance problems when legal problems arise. However, having more readily available money can smooth these things over, making them less impactful than for someone with less income.

Unallocated Money and Substance Use

Research has found that having disposable income plays a significant role in the use of certain substances. For example, cocaine users with unallocated money are likely to buy cocaine more frequently. Consequently, people able to afford a daily cocaine habit are apt to do so if they use cocaine.

A similar effect may be responsible for the use of illegal substances among upper income bracket families. For example, heroin and other opioid use has increased among teens and young adults in higher income families. Their access to unallocated money may very well fuel their addictions while those with limited money have much less access to addictive substances.

Getting Help and Finding the Right Treatment Program

Every rehab is not the same, and many may not be for you. For the most successful outcome, you need to feel comfortable in the place you go for treatment, and with the people who provide you services. You also need to feel aligned with the treatment approach of the program you attend. As you begin your search for the right treatment facility, keep in mind that there are lots of variables that go into the mix.

There are various treatment philosophies for example, and they have a wide range–from programs using primarily religious principles to those combining various modalities of alternative medicine. Also, rehabs may specialize in treating particular addictions but among a group of specialty programs, there can be a diverse range of approaches.

Another range of differences between rehab programs are the amenities and accommodations offered. You can find facilities that are similar to luxury hotels with spa-like or retreat-like amenities. Also, you may want to decide upon a particular natural setting, or a particular geographic location to travel to for your treatment stay.

As you consider what would work for you, you might ask yourself some specific questions to help you clarify your preferences. It’s certain that when you decide to go to rehab, you inevitability will find yourself facing a tangle of decisions to make. For example, do you prefer a 12-Step based program? A faith-based one? A holistic one?

Do you want to travel to treatment for greater privacy and confidentiality, and if so, how far away?

What type of setting do you prefer?

Do you want certain amenities?

Do you have co-occurring substance and mental health problems?

Would you prefer a gender specific setting?

Do you need executive arrangements, so you can continue business related contact while in treatment?

These are the types of questions you’ll need to answer to find the perfect fit for you, but we can help you through this decision-making process easily. We provide a free consultation in which we clarify your needs and preferences, then match them with appropriate recommendations for you. Taking the first few steps toward rehab are always the most difficult. We will be happy to help.

Ambivalence, Denial and Preparing for Rehab

One of the most difficult tasks you face prior to rehab is deciding that you need treatment. Denial is a cardinal characteristic of any addictive illness, and it is natural that you will feel ambivalent. At times, you can see there is clearly a problem, and other times you don’t at all. Fluctuating perceptions like this are par for the course. Keep in mind a good rule of thumb, however. If you have any moments of thinking you have a substance problem and need help, that is a significant red flag.

To resolve your ambivalence about treatment, it’s helpful to talk with trusted people already in your life, and healthcare providers that you seek out. Be open and honest as you can and seek feedback. Open the lines of communication, state your concerns and your misgivings. Have conversations and do some research of your own. For example, you might read about the symptoms of a Substance Use Disorder, seek out recovery related information online from AA or NA (Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous), or attend one of their meetings. There are many books on the subject as well. Finally, don’t forget the experts you have access to. You may know someone in recovery, or may get an appointment with a provider of addiction counseling.

Whatever Your Situation, This is Your World, Too

Sometimes we must remember that we don’t have to set ourselves apart from the rest of the world. We all share this human experience, have our human struggles, and need help along the way. It’s tempting to sink into the isolation of substance use as well as the guilt, shame and embarrassment that typically come along with the illness. However, reaching out for help can profoundly change your life. You don’t have to suffer alone or any longer than you already have. There are solutions for you and recovery is more than possible for you, too.