Addiction and Homelessness

Research studies report that there is a connection between substance abuse and addiction and homelessness. In 2017, for instance, it was reported that there were more than half a million people struggling with homelessness in the United States.

Every year, the homeless population in the country continues increasingly - particularly among young people. The unfortunate thing is that addiction and homelessness often go hand in hand. This is because being homeless increases the risk of substance abuse while ongoing drug and alcohol abuse could lead to homelessness.

This problem is so predominant that the National Coalition for the Homeless has reported that 38 percent of all homeless people are dependent on alcohol while 26 percent struggle with dependence on other intoxicating substances and drugs.

Addiction can result from homelessness in the sense that the difficulties experienced while living on the streets, struggling with poor health, being away from friends and family, and finding food could all create stress and mental health challenges.

While living on the streets, you might also experience a harsh lifestyle that involves threats from violence, lack of love and shelter, and starvation. All of these problems could lead to substance abuse and addiction.

Mental Illness, Homelessness, and Addiction

Research studies suggest that about 33 percent of all people who are homeless struggle with mental health disorders. In fact, mental illness is one of the major causes of homelessness. In many cases, this problem also leads to alcohol and drug abuse.

Some of the mental health disorders that are commonly associated with being homeless include but are not limited to:

  • Bipolar disorder
  • Delusions
  • Major depressive disorder
  • Paranoia
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder
  • Schizophrenia and Schizoaffective disorder
  • Severe anxiety

Apart from mental illness, it is also highly likely that being homeless could increase your risk of being assaulted. This means that you will end up needing the comfort and pain relief that you can temporarily experience when you take substances of abuse.

As a homeless individual struggling with difficult emotional and mental conditions, you might also find it more convenient to self-medicate by taking harmful substances of abuse. Over time, this could lead to dual diagnosis disorders involving addiction and co-occurring mental health disorders.

Although it might seem to you that alcohol and drugs can suppress difficult mental and emotional conditions, you can be sure that this will only end up leading to a destructive cycle of dual diagnosis accompanied by dependency.

Homelessness and Addiction among Women

Addiction and homelessness are particularly damaging and harmful to children and women. This is because homeless women tend to suffer from trauma that is uniquely gender-based. In turn, this contributes to higher levels of drug abuse and addiction among homeless women than it does among men.

Although 30 percent of all homeless people suffer from mental illness, female populations have higher rates of these problems. About 50 to 60 percent, for instance, of all homeless women end up struggling with emotional and mental disturbances - some of which predate their homelessness.

In the same way, there are women who become homeless as a result of escaping a past that is laden with sexual trauma or domestic violence. Some of them are also victims who were trying to escape sex trafficking.

All these factors - alongside the co-occurring disorders that the women suffer - continue contributing to high rates of substance abuse among homeless women, particularly involving substances like crack cocaine and heroin.

Homelessness and Addiction among Young Adults

Research studies also show that most of the young people who are homeless also struggle with substance abuse and addiction. Young people between the ages of 12 and 17, in particular, have the highest risk of suffering from homelessness compared to adults.

Not surprisingly, many of these homeless young people have been victims of abuse. For instance, it was reported that 71 percent of all abducted, throwaway, runaway, and missing children were struggling with substance abuse and addiction.

Some of the factors that contribute to drug use among homeless youth include but are not limited to:

  • Co-occurring disorders
  • Early use of drugs and alcohol
  • Emotional abuse
  • Family abuse
  • Genetics relating to substance abuse
  • Growing up in homeless families
  • Maladaptive mechanics to cope with stress
  • Physical abuse
  • Running away from the home environment
  • Sexual abuse

The important thing to keep in mind is that homeless young people who struggle with issues involving substance abuse and addiction often tend to be much more vulnerable to addiction in the long term. They might also develop co-occurring disorders, which if left untreated could follow them into their adult years.

Homelessness, and Addiction in the LGBTQ+ Community

People in the LGBTQ+ community also tend to suffer from high rates of alcohol and drug abuse. In the same way, they struggle with issues related to minority stress - the emotional and behavioral effects that arise from the internalized feelings of social and cultural exclusion. All these emotions and effects could fuel their substance abuse and addiction. Unfortunately, people in this community also have a 120 percent risk of homelessness in comparison to the rest of the heterosexual population.

Homeless people who identify as LGBTQ - whether they have come out or not - are also susceptible to alcohol and drug abuse. Most of these people also struggle with suicidal ideation, anxiety, PTSD, depression, and other mental health challenges. As a result, they often self-medicate using drugs and alcohol even though they are also homeless.

Psychology Today has also reported that homeless members of the LGBTQ community have the highest rates of illicit drug abuse. For instance, homeless lesbian women tend to report higher than typical rates of alcohol abuse. This is due to, among many other factors, issues like minority stress and internalized disorders.

While homeless, these people are also subjected to higher rates of sexual assault and routine violence in comparison to heterosexual people. Research has also shown that homelessness tends to be most common within the transgender community because members of this community often struggle with workplace and job discrimination.

Getting Help

There are connections between addiction and homeless. If you are struggling with any or both of these conditions, it is recommended that you seek help from free and low cost addiction treatment facilities so that you can recover and get your life back on track.

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