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Truth in the Numbers: A Look at Homeless Addicts

homeless addict

When some people think of drug addicts or alcoholics, their mind automatically pictures someone who is living out on the street, homeless, and jobless.

As a Philly PHP rehab, we know that this is far from the truth. While there are homeless drug addicts and alcoholics out there, not every homeless person is an addict and not everyone struggling with substance abuse is homeless.

Homelessness in the United States

The problem with calculating the number of homeless people in the United States is that they are hard to keep track of. Along with the fact that some of these people are loners without any family, these numbers are always changing as well. Regardless of these limitations, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development estimates that on any given night in 2018, there were 553,000 people who were homeless, but these numbers change from year to year.1 Some of these people will stay in shelters while others are on their own. This homeless population is made up of people with diverse backgrounds, but veterans and young adults tend to be some of the groups that are more affected.1

Substance Abuse & Homelessness

Although not everyone who is homeless is abusing drugs and alcohol, it is estimated that the percentage of homeless who are addicts is higher compared to the general population. Some estimates suggest that 38% of homeless people are alcoholics and 26% abuse drugs.2 In comparison, only 15% of the general population in the United States has reported abusing drugs within the last year and only 5.8% of adults qualify for an alcohol use disorder.2,3

Why Alcohol, Drugs, & Homelessness are Connected

If addiction can affect people of all different ages and backgrounds, then why is there such a high number of homeless addicts? Unfortunately, these is no one right answer. The strong correlation between addiction disorders and homelessness is a result of several different factors at play.

One reason there are so many homeless addicts is because of the destructive nature of addiction. It is not uncommon for people addicted to drugs or alcohol to prioritize these substances over everything else in their life. This type of thinking can lead to job loss, financial problems, and the deterioration of their personal relationships. Together, all of these issues may lead to homelessness.

Another big contributing factor to homelessness is mental illness. It is estimated that anywhere from 25-33% of the homeless population in the United States suffers from a serious mental illness.4 Untreated, these mental health problems could lead to homelessness. Unfortunately, poor mental health and addiction often go hand in hand as well. Some research suggests that as many as half of the people who experience a mental illness at some point in their lives will also develop a substance abuse disorder.5

On the other side, addiction may sometimes be a result of becoming homeless. After losing their home and having to live on the street, some people may lose hope or become depressed. To cope with these negative emotions as well as to pass the time, these people may turn to drugs or alcohol. Before they realize it, they have become a homeless addict and they struggle to afford outpatient treatment or find addiction resources.

As a drug rehab center in Philadelphia, PA, we know all too well that addiction knows no boundaries. There are people who live relatively normal looking lives on the outside but are struggling with drug addiction behind closed doors. You do not have to be living on the street to be affected by addiction, but if you wait to get help, this could be the result.

Whether you struggle with a drug addiction or know someone who does, get help before problems get much worse. Get more information on our program and facility at Banyan Philadelphia by calling 888-280-4763.

Sources & References:

  1. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development - The 2018 Annual Homeless Assessment Report to Congress
  2. National Coalition for the Homeless - Substance Abuse and Homelessness
  3. NCBI - Alcohol Facts and Statistics
  4. Harvard Health Publishing - The homeless mentally ill
  5. NIH - Common Comorbidities with Substance Use Disorders Research Report

Alyssa, Director of Digital Marketing
Alyssa, Director of Digital Marketing
Alyssa is the National Director of Digital Marketing and is responsible for a multitude of integrated campaigns and events in the behavioral health and addictions field. All articles have been written by Alyssa and medically reviewed by our Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Darrin Mangiacarne.