Are the Ultra Wealthy More Prone to Drug Abuse?

In America and throughout the world, celebrities and other ultra-rich individuals receive a broad range of social perks and privileges. If you base your opinions on popular news and entertainment coverage, the ultra wealthy also appear to have ready access to drugs and alcohol. But does celebrity drug abuse actually happen more often than drug abuse in other segments of the population? Judging from the impact of wealth on substance abuse risks, the answer to that question may be “Yes.”

Affluence and Substance Use Risks

Lack of adequate income or economic challenges have long been viewed as driving forces for substance use and diagnosable substance problems. However, researchers now know that children of wealthy and/or highly educated parents have unique risk factors that also make their involvement in substance use a distinct possibility. In a study published in 2005 in the journal Current Directions in Psychological Science, researchers from Columbia University concluded that affluent children have two specific underlying risks for psychological/emotional disturbances capable of triggering drug use and other problems. These risks are:

  • Physical and psychological/emotional detachment from their parents, and
  • Pressure to “succeed” at life in various ways

Compared to the children of low-income families, the children of wealthy families also appear to have higher risks for depression and anxiety, two well-recognized contributing factors for substance use and abuse.

What Do the Numbers Say?

In a study published in 2012 in the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs, a team of researchers from the University of Michigan used nationwide data to determine the real-world connection between substance use and wealth. These researchers focused on the behaviors of young adults between the ages of 18 and 23, who traditionally have some of society’s highest overall rates of drug and alcohol intake. After completing their analysis, they found that wealthy young adults have significantly higher chances of drinking and smoking marijuana than low-income young adults. The researchers also found that ultra wealthy young adults are more likely to use these substances than any other income group. Among other things, these figures mean that the phenomenon of celebrity drug abuse appears to reflect that there is a very real connection between wealth and a higher chance of developing drug problems. Sources Current Directions in Psychological Science: Children of the Affluent – Challenges to Well-Being Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs: Socioeconomic Status and Substance Use Among Young Adults: A Comparison Across Constructs and Drugs

Scroll to Top