Is Homelessness a Precursor to Substance Abuse

Is Homelessness a Precursor to Substance Abuse

Is Homelessness a Precursor to Substance Abuse?


People all over America, from a variety of backgrounds have become a part of the growing problem of homelessness in our country today. The sad truth is that it doesn’t discriminate against any particular group. Families, many of them headed by women, children, single male and female, all comprise the growing group of individuals living “on the street.” Research, however, seems to suggest that the fastest growing subgroup is the female-headed family. It is speculated that they “account for one-third of the estimated homeless population of 2.5 million people” (Bassuk, Rosenberg).

Although it is a well-known fact that this is reaching epidemic proportions, the causes of this major problem are a little less certain. Studies often find that the problems range from job loss to mental illness to substance abuse, and a plethora of issues in between.

Among the various problems linked to homelessness is one in particular that appears to be disproportionately high. One study found that “rates of current drug use disorders for homeless adults were more than eight times higher than general population estimates”(Robertson, Zlotnick, Westerfelt). This raises a red flag for certain and absolutely must be investigated for the purposes of helping to end this growing problem of homelessness in America, one of the richest countries on the planet.

The question that seems to be a mystery is whether it is the drug abuse causing the homelessness, or vice versa? There are many variables that cause this question to be such a difficult one to answer. First of all, the definition of homelessness seems to vary from study to study. Therefore, it is difficult to do an accurate study that is truly representative of the problem. For example, often studies will use samples from shelters, which “may underestimate, while jail-based samples overestimate” (Robertson, Zlotnick, Westerfelt)...

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