OPINION: Exploring poverty’s cyclical addiction

(Illustration by Savannah Thaemert | The Collegian)

You get to the checkout line in the grocery store when all of a sudden you realize you can’t find your wallet. The fear of wondering how you will pay for the groceries or what you will tell them when it is finally your turn paralyzes you. What if you felt that way every time you reached the checkout line, but you actually had your wallet, there was just little or no money in it?

That feeling is only a glimpse into the daily lives of the impoverished people in society today.

In 2014, there were 46.7 million people living in poverty, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

Drugs and addictions aid in the downfall of individuals, the downfall that leads to a life of poverty.

Substance abuse takes your life, your ability to hold a stable job and the simple reasoning behind how you make your decisions.

The stigma that is associated with poverty lends itself toward photos of children in a Third World country made only of skin and bones, with little to keep them sustained.

In the U.S., we envision throngs of people lining up outside of shelters and food pantries wearing tattered clothing, clothing that was most likely found in a garbage can or forced upon the wearer without them having much of a say.

We see poverty as hitchhikers on the side of the road, homeless people living under bridges and mothers running away from domestic violence attempts.

Everyone who is not impoverished imagines poverty differently. These images are usually curated from movies and wrong turns while driving in the city. However, we rarely question why or how these people find themselves in their situations.

We look at those living with much less than us and say things like, “There are jobs out there,” or look at parents with children and say, “How irresponsible. You could have more money if you would spend your time searching for a job instead of begging.”


“Perhaps the greatest impact of poverty on the life of a drug user is how it can make prevention and treatment efforts inaccessible to that person,” according to the National Council on Drug Abuse article “Drug Talk.”

It is difficult for people who do not have adequate monetary resources to correctly seek services, according to the article.

Correctly seeking services can range from partaking in drug treatment centers or services to attending support groups.

This is where the cycle of drug abuse and poverty meet. They meet where people do not have enough money to provide rehabilitative services for their families or themselves, yet have the money to continue to abuse drugs.

Of course it is impossible to hold a steady job, save money and have available funds when your main concern is where your next line of cocaine or hit of weed is coming from.

Yes, we saw “The Wolf of Wall Street” emulate the perfect druggie, ill-mannered high class life of Jordan Belfort; however, we also witnessed his epic fall when the drugs were used to compensate, to create a euphoric life, when his gambling decisions became too much.

Addiction to poverty

On the flip side, poverty in itself is an addiction. Drugs are not the only addiction that induces unconventional living habits to satisfy a specific way of life, learned or otherwise.

The definition of poverty is revolving; it is incredibly situational.

“Being addicted to poverty means that you do a lot of things that are detrimental to your financial situation,” Philippe Matthews said in The How Movement article “Can You Be Addicted to Poverty?”

It is not classified as just being homeless or hungry. Living in poverty extends to possibly living in a decent household, yet not being able to afford to live, such as paying bills or having enough financial resources to afford food, clothes or other household necessities, according to the article.

Matthews said that being addicted to poverty is as simple as realizing you are living in a difficult or tight situation, yet your attitude toward money, and therefore habits, have not changed.

Growing out of poverty

People can break the cycle of poverty, whether the addiction is to a substance, material goods, poverty itself or there is no addiction at all.

Many instances of regular people rising above poverty are not widely noted; however, acclaimed people like Oprah Winfrey, who wore rags as a child, were able to rise above their situation.

“She’s come a long way from the girl who wore potato-sack overalls, now donning Prada and Jimmy Choo,” Kathleen Elkins said in the Business Insider article “From poverty to a $3 billion fortune — the incredible rags-to-riches story of Oprah Winfrey.”

While Oprah was not necessarily addicted to poverty or substances, she removed herself from living with different generations of family who were most likely not trying to make a change to their living situation.

Addiction is strong.

The addiction to poverty is crippling and it impacts everyone involved in the situation. Unfortunately, fingers can’t be snapped and everything rectified. It is a cycle that must be broken. It’s as simple as one person deciding to make a change that will benefit them in the future rather than right now.