European countries with where recreational drugs are still illegal are generally abuse less drugs because they have less income inequality. Even when you have only a few euros, you can afford to go to university and lead a pretty comfortable life.
This may all change with mass unemployment and poverty austerity will cause, although. I really hope this will not be a race to the bottom.
My friends that are middle and lower class don't do drugs, although they do drink a considerable amount of alcohol.
I went to high school in the city. It was common for kids to smoke weed after class and came to school drunk. As for the kids who went to school in the upper middle class town I grew up in, their problems included ODing on heroin. The kids that smoked weed might not have the most balanced careers, but that is a whole lot better than being dead because you ODed on heroin.
Of course that is all anecdotal. However, I think it is a major stretch to believe drug abuse has something to do with not making enough money.
The drug problem needs to be fixed first with ending prohibition. After that happens the vast resources being spent antagonizing a war can be redirected to figuring out how to fix the core problem -- people being more concerned about getting high than what the rest of their life is going to look like.
In the US, the poor live quite comfortably. Even people with income of zero have consumption of about $20k/year.
For comparison, Hungary has a GDP per capita of $21k, the Czech Republic of $26k, France and the UK of $35k.
Further, inequality in the US is higher mainly because the rich earn more. That doesn't cause the life of the poor to suck, unless they get jealous or something.
Uh what? That individuals consume some amount of resources to live doesn't mean that they live comfortably. There is going to be some kind of minimum amount you have to pay to live, as you can't get everything for free even if you are homeless. That even those with the lowest incomes use up resources equivalent to $20k per year doesn't mean that those people are living comfortably, but we can see for Americans that there is some kind of minimum cost to living even if you can't make enough to pay for it all outright.
Drugs and poverty are intersectional. Laws for drug offenses involving substances most prevalent in poor communities have and continue to have harsher penalties than for drugs that are prevalent in more affluent communities. Drugs are highly available in poor communities, both for addicts and for those that want to sell them since economic advancement through traditional channels are denied to them. Police agencies in many cities enforce crime in the poorer parts of town that are inhabited primarily by people of color much more often than in more affluent areas.
The effects of drug prohibition amplify exiting social and economic issues in US society, so we know that US drug policy has been a total failure and must be changed.
If you want to argue that the lives of poor Americans suck, look at absolute consumption levels, or better yet, look at the actual basket of goods available to poor Americans.
Here is some data to get you started: http://www.census.gov/prod/2008pubs/h150-07.pdf
You may call it envy if that's how you see it -- if you indeed are interesting in learning about the many problems of economic inequality, I recommend the book The Spirit Level (http://www.equalitytrust.org.uk/resource/the-spirit-level).
I can think of no mechanism besides envy which would cause income inequality to harm anyone. It's not as if the US poor lack some good or service which is available in other, more equal societies.
Note that the Spirit Level only provides a correlation between inequality and other problems. It does not show the direction of causality.
Cheapest bread is .5-.8e, a cheap room is 200e/mth, take out meal is 5-10e and a beer costs 2-3e. Your student job easily pays you 10e/h.