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Addiction and Money

“Asking for help is really the beginning of any sort of recovery process.” - Marc Maron, comedian

Addiction is a nasty and mysterious disease or disorder that can change how our brain responds in situations involving rewards, stress, and self-control. These changes can be long-term and persist even if we experience full recovery.

Unfortunately, for those of us who get tangled in this web of addiction directly or indirectly, the costs can be significant emotionally and financially. In our family's case, we had to take out a second mortgage to pay off over $100,000 in fees for treatments for our daughter suffering from a substance use disorder with no guarantee of success.

Addiction and Money
Addiction has a significant impact emotionally and financially

We're not alone. Addiction is showing up at alarming levels in how we eat, exercise, and even play. For example, the practice of betting and gambling is no longer limited to casinos or Las Vegas. It's now showing up in video games for younger audiences, lotteries, and sporting venues. A recent ad playing during the 2024 football playoffs showed Jamie Foxx promoting a betting app. Though the act of betting does not equate to an addiction, psychologists are concerned that wider access to the practice especially for boys and men can lead to gambling addictions.

The Costs of Addiction

Unfortunately, the costs of addiction fall more often on the shoulders of those who are suffering rather than those who sell drugs, alcohol, pornography, gambling, etc. These costs can be significant and lead to heartbreaking consequences. For example, a good friend lost her brother to suicide, leaving behind a wife and daughter. He had a history of addiction and was struggling financially. After the devastation of the loss, Tammy was determined to learn more about her brother’s struggles and how her efforts to help were ineffective or even counterproductive. She went on to do a Ted Talk about the experience and the epidemic of money shame as well as write a book called Money Detox. Though this work won’t bring her brother back, she hopes it will help others avoid the pitfalls of money shame and all that it entails mentally, physically, and financially.*

What We Can Do

Though it may seem impossible to stop those who benefit financially from selling products and services that can lead to addiction, we can speak up and speak out. For example, a group of parents concerned about the number of vape shops popping up around their high school have rallied to work with local officials to change zoning laws and to remind vendors of the legal consequences of selling to minors.

At home, we can discuss ways to use Positive Money principles to guide our thinking and behavior that may not seem addictive but can still cause harm and feel out of control. For example, "shopping therapy" is a common way we deal with stress or connect with others. Noticing when you're vulnerable to overspending can be a first step to reducing harm and finding alternative ways to meet your needs.

*Note: If you or a loved one are struggling with addiction, reach out for help. A good place to start for substance use disorders is SAMSA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.) For other issues, consult your local healthcare and addiction services providers and join support networks like the one I run called Substance Use Parent Support (SUPS) groups.


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