Addiction, also known as substance use disorder (SUD), is listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5) as a complex brain disorder that is characterized by compulsively engaging in rewarding stimuli without regard for consequence. Addiction can be explained as “a chronic dysfunction of the brain system that involves reward, motivation, and memory.” The relationship between homelessness and substance abuse is complex, with studies suggesting that substance use can be both a cause and consequence of homelessness. As stated by the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction, “there is a clear intersection between homelessness and high-risk drug use among the two distinct groups of people experiencing long-term (chronic) and recurrent (episodic) homelessness.” The National Coalition for the Homeless has found that 38% of homeless people are alcohol dependent, and 26% are dependent on other harmful chemicals. Additional pertinent statistics regarding the coexistence of homelessness and addiction, provided by American Addiction Centers include:
- The 2020 U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Annual Homeless Assessment Report to Congress (AHAR) reports that on a single night in 2020, 580,000 people experienced homelessness in America.
- According to the 2013 AHAR, 257,000 people who were homeless had a severe mental illness or a chronic substance abuse issue.
- Reports suggest 33% of homeless people battle mental illness. Sources cite mental illness as a major cause of homelessness, which often leads to drug and alcohol abuse.
- According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) people who are homeless have a high risk of overdose from illicit substances. Findings from one study concluded that homeless people had a higher risk of opioid overdose, with an adjusted risk rate of 1.8% for homeless vs. 0.3% for low-income people who had housing.
- Substance abuse may develop due to the stressors associated with homelessness. A 2008 survey by the United States Conference of Mayors, for example, asked 25 cities for their top three causes of homelessness, and substance abuse was the single largest cause of homelessness for single adults (reported by 68% of cities).
Substance use disorder and homelessness are interconnected in two directions: they may be contributing causes and consequences of each other. Therefore, it should come as no surprise that substance abuse is far more common among homeless people than in the general population.
For Information and Support
If you are concerned for yourself or a loved one regarding substance abuse and/ or addiction, we recommend reaching out for help as soon as possible. If left untreated, substance abuse can result in long lasting and potentially life-threatening consequences. Keep in mind: you are not alone! There is an entire network of professionals that are available to help and support you and your loved one throughout the recovery process. The earlier you seek support, the sooner your loved one can return to a happy, healthy, and fulfilling life.
Please do not hesitate to reach out with any questions regarding our specific program at Haven House Addiction Treatment and/ or general substance abuse and/ or addiction treatment related information. Our highly trained staff is readily available to discuss how we might best be able to help you and your loved one. We can be reached by phone at 424-258-6792. You are also welcomed to contact anytime us via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.