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Homelessness and Addiction

    Homelessness and Addiction

    Throughout the UK, people are living without a permanent address. Homelessness looks different according to each individual and it has various knock-on effects. Some can be extremely detrimental and cause further upsetting situations. However, with solid support, people can find their way to what they might define as a better quality of life.

    280,000 people were reported as being homeless in the UK in 2019.(1) Homelessness and addiction often come hand-in-hand. Research reveals that between 39% – 70% of people who are homeless also suffer with addiction.(2)

    When a person is at the centre of homelessness, addiction, and mental health issues, they deserve compassionate support.

    In the UK, homelessness is defined as those who are sleeping rough, in temporary accommodation or at threat of eviction, and those who are in what would be “unfit” accommodation (i.e. due to overcrowding). (3)

    To talk to someone about receiving addiction treatment while homeless or while under threat of addiction, contact OK Rehab to find out what’s available near you.

    Are homelessness and addiction linked?

    For many people who are homeless, addiction is present. Neither can be called a cause for the other as both situations will have developed through a variety of factors. It’s certainly fair to say, however, that the two can exacerbate each other.

    For the majority of people without permanent residency, there is an ever-changing community and set of circumstances. People move around a lot, although tend to stick to the same areas and associate with the same people.

    Addiction completely changes a person’s approach to life. Drugs or alcohol often become the focus. When a person puts all their efforts into using a substance, they might stop paying bills, or accrue debt, they might be asked to leave a previously “permanent” address.

    A person who is homeless might not have an addiction, however, the stress of homelessness itself can make a person want to use a substance more. Finally, when a person with an addiction spends time with others who drink and take drugs this can encourage addictive habits.

    As well as there being common factors involved with homelessness and addiction, there is also a connection between mental health and addiction.

    The correlation between mental health and addiction

    It’s recognised within many fields that mental health problems and addiction are correlated. It’s common that if a person has a substance misuse issue that they could also have mental health problems. (4)

    When a person has suffered something upsetting or traumatic, this might have the knock-on effect of making them want to use alcohol or drugs to ease their feelings. Many people use substances as a coping mechanism. Likewise, those with pre-existing mental health conditions might use substances to reduce symptoms.

    There is also the effect of drug and alcohol use affecting the hormones, chemical balances, and bodily systems. When this happens, it can make a person feel really ill when the substance and toxins leave the body. This affects moods and mental health. A person might turn back to the substance in order to help them deal with these effects and to feel “normal” again.

    Unfortunately, a dual diagnosis (of addiction and mental health) can create difficulties for those seeking treatment. Some services will only treat people for mental health issues if there is no addiction present. There are, however, rehabilitation programmes that treat both. Contact OK Rehab to find out more.

    1. Homelessness and dual diagnosis

    For those who are homeless, it’s very likely that there will be other challenges that a person will face. Along with the external barriers that come with engaging in social and community provisions (such as lack of free, available transport), there are also intrinsic and personal barriers.

    One study stated that up to 80% of people who are homeless in the UK also suffer from mental health problems.(5) Statistics can vary a little between studies, but there is no doubt that the figure is high.

    Types of mental health that are commonly experienced by those who are homeless include the following:

    • Depression (severe)
    • Anxiety (severe)
    • OCD
    • Bipolar
    • Schizophrenia
    • PTSD

    When a person experiences severe symptoms related to these problems, it makes accessing treatment harder. As mentioned earlier, mental health and addiction are linked. With all these factors influencing a person’s life, homelessness, addiction, and mental health create a complex situation to navigate. Experienced and compassionate professionals are essential to provide a solid foundation of support.

    2. Homelessness for women

    For women who are homeless, it’s quite common that there are very traumatic events that have taken place in the person’s past. Trauma, sexual abuse and/or exploitation, and domestic violence are often present or have occurred historically.

    There are treatment and housing services especially for women who have experienced these issues. This is to ensure the safest environment possible.

    3. Homelessness for young people

    The reasons a young person becomes homeless can be very different to an adult. There is a range of services and provisions that support young people. Safeguarding and child protection is a top priority. Professionals will endeavour to keep young people safe and ensure they have accommodation as well as relevant support around substance misuse.

    4. Homelessness within the LGBTQ community

    The LGBTQ community has some of the highest rates in terms of people suffering from mental health symptoms linked to depression and anxiety. (6)

    This in turn can increase the likelihood of a person then using substances. Living in a heterocentric (and unfortunately sometimes, prejudiced) society can make the experience of being LGBTQ difficult.

    Increasingly services are becoming more and more LGBTQ aware and focused. With this comes better provision for those who are LGBTQ, homeless, and living with addictions.

    Substances commonly used by those who are homeless

    The most common substances used by those who are homeless include the following:

    • Alcohol
    • Cannabis
    • Heroin
    • Crack cocaine
    • Synthetic drugs (such as synthetic cannabis)
    • Illegally used over-the-counter prescription drugs, such as codeine, tramadol, and methadone.(7)

    Addiction treatment options for those who are homeless

    For those who are homeless, the barriers to accessing treatment will be influenced by their circumstances. There is often a lot of moving around from various shelters, or from hospitals, or safe houses. This can make keeping appointments difficult. There are services that welcome people who are both homeless and have addictions.

    What types of services and treatments are there?

    When a person has an addiction, it’s paramount that they are treated in a holistic way. This means with a team of professionals to support every aspect of a person’s life. There are both inpatient and outpatient services.

    Inpatient services are especially useful for those living with severe addictions. It provides the safest space to have a medically supervised detox. This is essential for those who have physical dependencies (i.e. to alcohol or heroin).

    Outpatient services are a great option for those with mild substance misuse problems. People are able to continue with their regular activities while attending appointments as and when suits them.

    Treatments include physical (detox), psychological (such as cognitive and dialectical behavioural therapies) and alternative therapies (such as reiki and yoga). Private rehabilitation centres tend to offer the best packages as they’re fully comprehensive and cover all grounds.

    In this instance, an after-care plan is also provided to support around relapse prevention and creating a life of sobriety.

    Final Thoughts…

    Homelessness and addiction are social and health issues that are incredibly important. Sadly, despite the thousands of people who find themselves in these situations, services and treatment can be tricky to access. This is for a variety of reasons, external and internal barriers being part of them.

    To find out more about a provision in your local area, contact OK Rehab. Our team of friendly and professional advisors will be happy to point you in the right direction.





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