As Economic Troubles Deepen, Addiction Is on the Rise
By Meghan Vivo
Every day, it seems our economic woes multiply. First, major corporations began closing their doors; then came the news stories featuring growing lines at the unemployment office and a record number of mortgage foreclosures. Following on the heels of this bad news came more bad news: More people are struggling with high blood pressure, weight gain, migraines, and bouts of depression, just to name a few of the negative health consequences trickling down from the slumping economy.
The addiction treatment experts at The Landing, an exclusive 30-day private rehab facility for men suffering from drug or alcohol addiction, recently added to the list of ills plaguing the American public, noting that more people are turning to drugs and alcohol to numb the pain of hard times.
Although it is too early to attempt to quantify the health consequences of the current economic crisis, it is clear that many Americans are self-medicating with drugs and alcohol. In previous downturns, researchers documented a strong association between hikes in unemployment and increases in deaths from heart disease, cancer, and psychiatric disorders.
“Troubled times weigh heavily on everyone’s minds these days,” says Kurt Greenbaum, The Landing’s gourmet chef who lives and works with men in recovery on a daily basis. “The financial uncertainty alone is enough to drive stress, anxiety, and depression levels to an extreme. Then people are left to find their own ways to cope, which often include drugs, alcohol, and other forms of escape.”
Increasing addiction concerns during times of economic hardship isn’t a new phenomenon. During the Great Depression, prohibition was repealed and the United States saw a sharp rise in alcoholism. Several studies have shown a strong correlation between the prevalence of binge drinking and the psychological stress of recessions. According to the American Psychological Association, people report financial issues related to money (82 percent), the economy (82 percent), and work (69 percent) as sources of stress.
Although market analysts are predicting low sales in most market sectors, they are anticipating a surge in alcohol consumption, particularly of inexpensive spirits like beer and other products of the so-called “sin industries.” The Nielsen Company, a leading provider of marketing information, agrees, noting that alcohol is relatively resilient in economic downturns.
“People will drink beer no matter what’s going on with the economy or stock market,” said Dan Ahrens, a Dallas-based investment adviser and author of Investing in Vice: The Recession-Proof Portfolio of Booze, Bombs, Bets and Butts.
Prescription drugs are another area of concern to addiction experts. While many people are holding off on filling legitimate prescriptions for costly health conditions, others are finding that the high they get from prescription painkillers and stimulants is more effective and cheaper than most alternatives. In some cases, the nearest high is only as far as the closest medicine cabinet.
A Growing Threat of Relapse
Spikes in relapse rates for recovered drug addicts and alcoholics are also more common during a recession, notes Greenbaum. Despite the increased need for treatment, many struggle with the decision to commit the time and money to drug rehab at a time when such precious commodities are at a deficit. But because drug and alcohol addiction are progressive, chronic diseases, treatment is often the only real solution.
“When it comes to addiction, it isn’t as simple as choosing to cut back or limit one’s use, like many people are doing with vacations, dining out, and other luxuries,” says Greenbaum. “Addiction is a disease, which means many users will feel compelled to continue their drug-seeking behavior even when times get tough.”
For many, a failing economy means a return to bad habits. “People tend to drink more when they’re stressed out,” Dr. Steven Adelman, director of behavioral health and addiction medicine at Harvard Vanguard Medical Associates, told The Boston Globe. “I’m seeing more people falling off the wagon who have been relatively sober for quite a while. The addiction business is booming.”
Coping with Crisis
The worry is written all over the faces of many clients at The Landing. Recently, more clients have entered treatment needing to work through addictions brought on or exacerbated by the loss of a job, the threat of foreclosure, or financial or emotional turmoil, notes Greenbaum. According to recent news reports, the easy accessibility and relative affordability of alcohol and prescription drugs are compounding the problem.
“An important part of addiction treatment is learning healthier ways to cope with stress, trauma, and difficult life events,” says Greenbaum. “We spend a lot of time at The Landing learning to prioritize our own health and happiness.”
Many recovering addicts – high-power executives, affluent business owners, professionals, or otherwise – are struggling to cope with the stress and pressures in their daily lives because they haven’t developed the coping skills they need to survive without drugs or alcohol.
“At meetings, we hear a lot of people talking about the stress of the economy, their disappearing 401k plans, and their worries for the future,” explains David Parker, a case manager at The Landing. “Now more than ever, stress management and coping skills are an integral part of addiction treatment. Alcohol and drugs are just the symptom – our time and energy are spent getting to the core issues underlying the substance abuse problem.”
The Process of Rebuilding Starts with Treatment
Whether clients at The Landing have lost everything or nothing at all, the focus of treatment is finding serenity and joy through sobriety and re-prioritizing family, health, and service. “Recovery is never an easy process, but as clients progress through treatment, we gradually see their focus shifting from acquiring material possessions and wealth to finding true peace and happiness. They start living life on an entirely different plane,” says Parker.
The staff of addiction experts at The Landing takes a non-punitive, non-confrontational approach to addiction treatment, which may explain the program’s high retention and success rates. “Everyone at The Landing truly opens their hearts to the men who seek treatment here,” says Greenbaum. “Whether a client wants to be here or not, whether he is committed to treatment or not, we love and support him until he can love himself.”
Located in an intimate six-bed facility on the sand in beautiful Newport Beach, California, The Landing specializes in treating addiction, trauma, and men’s issues. Through intensive individual, group, and family therapy, outdoor activities like surfing, tai chi, sailing, and bike riding, healthy meals prepared by a gourmet chef, and a highly individualized treatment approach, The Landing creates a safe, private, and healing atmosphere for men to begin their journey into recovery.
By the time we emerge from the current economic crisis, it is likely that most of us will have been affected in some way. If you are in recovery or are struggling to cope with the emotional and financial stresses of daily life, reach out for help before too much damage is done. Drug rehab programs like The Landing offer a free assessment and guidance on choosing the best addiction treatment program for your particular needs. Although treatment entails time, commitment, and expense, the pay-off is a life that is truly worth living.