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Why Addiction Rates are So High in the Homeless Community

July 24, 2019 - - 0 Comments
homelessness and addiction

If you spend any time in a big city, you are likely to see homelessness and people on the streets. And, unfortunately, you’re likely to see them drinking alcohol, trying to score heroin, or abusing prescription drugs like benzodiazepines, Xanax, and various types of opioids and opiates. Some people get angry when they see homeless individuals in this situation and think that they “deserve” the problems in their lives. However, empathy and understanding are critical to understanding issues like these. 

For example, it is crucial to understand how the depression and anxiety triggered by homelessness can lead to increased rates of substance abuse. Just as importantly, it is critical to know why addiction can trigger homelessness and how these two social problems often become an iron fist that traps individuals in a shell that can seem nearly impossible to crack. Thankfully, there is a light at the end of the tunnel with drug rehab, 12 step care, detox, and dual-diagnosis treatment and recovery.  Before we touch on the possible happy ending for many suffering from dependency on methamphetamine, heroin, marijuana, cocaine, benzos, or other types of drugs, we need to examine the depressing statistics regarding homelessness and addiction. Then, we need to break down why these problems occur so commonly and later try to figure out what we can do as a society to try to solve these co-occurring disorders as efficiently and effectively as possible.

What the Statistics Say 

According to the most recent estimates of homelessness in America, around 553,742 people are homeless at any given time. This rate is one person for every 10,000 people in the general population. While this might not seem as high as some might imagine, it is roughly the size of an average medium-sized city. A whole city of homeless people in the country is no laughing matter and is a severe issue that pairs sadly with drug abuse and other social and mental health issues

Compared to the general population, the drug abuse rate in homeless people is astronomical. For example, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration has stated that around 38 percent of homeless people have an addiction to alcohol – well over one-third – while 26 percent have an addiction to other drugs. That’s 210,421 and 143,972 people, respectively, for a combined 354,392 homeless individuals. Compare this level to the general population rate, which is about 8-15 percent. The rates in the homeless population are almost 4-5 times higher. 

homelessness and addiction

As a result, people without homes often suffer from high rates of other issues, such as depression and anxiety, that also pairs with their homeless state. Unfortunately, this situation creates a nasty cycle that can become cyclical and hard from which to escape. And while it would be nice if the homelessness and drug addiction epidemic were as easy to cure as “getting a job,” escaping from this state is often easier said than done. 

For example, a homeless individual needs a steady-state of income to find a place to live, which typically requires an address or a place of residence. And while not hiring a homeless person because of their living conditions is illegal, most employers refuse to hire them anyway and give no reasons for their refusal. Thankfully, some companies do take a chance on these individuals, but those who do are fewer than those who do not.  As a result, those who suffer from homelessness may feel excessive depression and other negative emotions that make it challenging to build their life. Some simply give up on ever-improving their living conditions and surrender to their situation. Though tragic, this reaction is understandable. Unfortunately, it – along with many other influences – may cause a person to turn to drugs to calm their anxiety and depression and deal with the trauma and PTSD of homelessness.

The Connection is Very Complex

The connection between drug abuse and homelessness is often a very complex one that requires a lot of examination. For example, one report claims that substance abuse is often a leading cause of homelessness. Let’s examine why this might be the case. A successful teacher is happily married with children but drank heavily during college. Though she cut back a lot when she got her job, she still drinks a “nightcap” before bed and parties hard with her husband on the weekend.

homelessness and addiction

Unfortunately, her drinking goes from occasional starts to increase over the years, and she begins to drink 6-12 drinks every night before bed. This abuse puts a strain on her body – she gains weight, experiences health issues, and strains her marriage. Her children start to judge her, which only triggers more drinking, and her husband eventually leaves her with the kids in hand. As a result, she drinks even more heavily and loses her job. Depression and anxiety strike at this point and make her life even worse.

Instead of trying to find a new job or getting help with rehab, detox, or mental health professionals, she continues to drink. Her weight balloons even higher, and her savings start to dry up. Though she is on food stamps and unemployment, she can’t pay her bills and loses her home. This situation occurred in less than two years, and while she could have turned to friends and family members in the past, she burned bridges with them and finds herself on the street with her only remaining friend – a bottle of booze. She wouldn’t be alone, either – many significant cities report substances as one of the top three reasons for homelessness

homelessness and addiction

In this situation, she does what many homeless people do – turn to drugs like methamphetamine and heroin to cope with her life. That point brings us to the next connection between these two social problems – substance abuse as a result of homelessness. When people lose their home and everything else, they often stare into an abyss of depression and anxiety that can spiral into trauma and PTSD. And with no income and no mental health help, they’re going to struggle to recover. 

As a result, they turn to substances to calm their mind and give themselves a new sense of purpose in life. While drug abuse may seem like a poor direction for a life to go, most people with that level of sadness don’t care. They simply need something that brings them comfort and stability, and alcohol and drugs often seem to provide that help. Unfortunately, the reality of the situation is that substances often put people in a homeless state and keep them thereby distracting them from what they need to do to improve their lives.  Happily, many rehab centers and detox facilities will provide homeless people with care on a sliding scale – which means that they can receive recovery treatment for almost nothing. These facilities understand that you have to root out the source of a person’s substance abuse before you can bring them sobriety and get them on the path away from homelessness. Unfortunately, the state of being homeless often makes this a hard road to follow without specialized help.

How Homelessness Complicates Treatment

When drug abuse impacts a homeless person, their recovery effort is going to be complicated by a variety of issues. Unlike those with more stable living conditions, homeless people may struggle to fit into a rehab community because of the problems defined below:

  • Disaffiliation – This situation occurs when a person has no social support system for their health issues. Sadly, this problem is common with homeless people with addictions because they are cut off from “normal” society in a way that is hard to overcome.
  • Lack of Trust – Homeless Individuals have often been hassled by law enforcement officials or other sources of authority over the years and, therefore, have a general lack of trust. This distrust is likely to worsen when their treatment specialist tells them what to do. 
  • Unstable Living Conditions – Since homeless people often travel regularly across their home city to avoid persecution and prosecution, they may find it hard to settle down in a care center and may miss appointments that set them back during their treatment. 
  • Complexity of Needs – Addiction is often just one symptom of a broader array of issues in a homeless person’s life. Concerns such as psychiatric disorders, lack of medical benefits, physical health issues, and more make treatment more difficult. 
homelessness and addiction

Thankfully, there are ways to overcome these problems, such as outreach, housing assistance, pressure-free environments, and motivational interviewing. Each of these methods can help a person with addiction get the care they need, particularly in a dual-diagnosis facility. This treatment and recovery option is typically the most successful way for homeless people to overcome substance abuse and regain the happy life that they once had before addiction.

How Dual-Diagnosis Can Help

Those who suffer from homelessness and addiction – two of the worst co-occurring disorders – should seriously consider dual-diagnosis to improve their chances of recovery. This unique treatment method differs from past rehab and treatment care options by giving you help on all fronts. You’ll get the opportunity to detox from substances to avoid the kind of withdrawal that is intensely painful and even – in many situations – life-threatening and difficult to overcome. 

And clearing your body in this way helps to clear your mind and make the next steps more comfortable to handle. Essentially, dual-diagnosis focuses on your mental health and how it causes a cycle of abuse that is hard to escape. For example, therapists can identify any issues that caused you to become homeless in the first place – such as depression making it impossible for you to work – and determine how these cause you to abuse substances. They’ll also assess home homelessness has affected your sense of worth. 

At this point, they’ll give you an insight into how your substance abuse affects your anxiety and other disorders. You’ll learn that these drugs don’t improve your mental state – which many people who abuse substances believe – but worsen it. For example, alcohol can trigger anxiety and depression, while methamphetamine and benzos may cause behavior issues that cause further life complications. Thankfully, dual-diagnosis can minimize these problems, break the cycle of addiction, and help give you a headstart on improving your life for the better. 

Let Us Help You Recover

So if you are someone who is suffering from substance abuse or know someone who abuses methamphetamine, heroin, opioids, or other drugs while living on the street, you should contact us at His Story to get the help that you need. We are a dual-diagnosis care center that also provides 12 step and detox help. This holistic care method, as described above, is one of the most potent and beneficial ways to overcome addiction and is a necessity for many people. 

For example, we can help you overcome issues with mental health, trauma, and PTSD that keeps you on the street. Just as importantly, we can manage your anxiety and depression and show you how these issues create a cycle of abuse from which it is hard to escape. This treatment of co-occurring disorders is the bedrock of the dual-diagnosis treatment and recovery method and, when paired with detox to prevent withdrawal, will give you a guide out of addiction and towards a better life. 

Our facilities offer a variety of payment options that you can use if you simply don’t have the money to get the care that you need. We are interested in saving lives, not making a fortune, and work hard to help those who need help the most. So please don’t hesitate to call us today to set up an appointment. We can give you a free assessment and show you around our facility to provide you with a better understanding of what to expect during your treatment time with us. We look forward to helping you.

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