The Relationship between Homelessness and Opiate Addiction

The Relationship between Homelessness and Opiate Addiction

The Relationship between Homelessness and Opiate Addiction

There is a close relationship between homelessness and opiate addiction. Homelessness can be a result of addiction, and the stress of homelessness can lead a person to abuse drugs. These cause-and-effects are also not exclusive, as a person can become homeless because of addiction and related issues, and the addiction may then continue or worsen because of the added stress and insecurity that results. A person who is already homeless and turns to substance abuse may find that a developing addiction closes off opportunities to build a better life and stable future.

Opiate Addiction Leading to Homelessness

Opiate addiction changes personality and behavior. People find themselves saying and doing things they never would have considered before beginning drug use. This can cause disruptions to family, social and professional life, and these disruptions can have far-ranging consequences including homelessness. The Coalition for the Homeless[1] shares, “Substance abuse is often a cause of homelessness. Addictive disorders disrupt relationships with family and friends and often cause people to lose their jobs…Two-thirds of homeless people report that drugs and/or alcohol were a major reason for their becoming homeless.” Once an addiction is present it takes over every aspect of a person’s life. Money used to pay rent or a mortgage may be used to buy drugs. Time away from work because of drug abuse can result in the loss of a job or career. Each of these circumstances can lead to the loss of a home.

Homelessness Leading to Addiction

There are many reasons a person becomes homeless, and opiate addiction is just one of these reasons. People can and often do lose their homes before they develop an unhealthy relationship with opiates, alcohol or other drugs. However if a stable home environment is lost, addiction often follows. The Coalition for the Homeless continues, “In many situations substance abuse is a result of homelessness rather than a cause. People who are homeless often turn to drugs and alcohol to cope with their situations. They use substances in an attempt to attain temporary relief from their problems. In reality, however, substance dependence only exacerbates their problems and decreases their ability to achieve employment stability and get off the streets.” Opiates may seem like a way to cope with the stress of being homeless, but using drugs to deal with a difficult situation makes the situation much worse.

Ending Homelessness and Opiate Addiction

While homeless individuals do face greater challenges when it comes to overcoming addiction, recovery is by no means out of reach. Homeless individuals are often viewed as beyond help or as personally resistant or immune to treatment, but nothing is further from the truth. Crosscut[2] explains, “We get too focused on the people failing treatment, not the treatment failing people.” Treatment has to be personalized and professional to be effective. A recovery path for a homeless individual involves more than detox and being sent back to the streets, because addiction is more than physical dependence on a drug. Recovery needs to involve comprehensive, long-term care. It should include job skills training and treatment for any co-occurring mental health concerns. Family therapy can help heal divided bonds and reestablish a support system, and treatment programs should help patients find temporary housing and establish connections for employment. Recovery is more than no longer using a drug; it is finding health and healing in all areas of life.

Finding Help for Opiate Addiction

No matter your or a loved one’s personal situation or place in life, we are here to help. Addiction recovery resources are available to everyone, and we can help you find the ones that match your budget, your unique recovery needs and your goals for the future. We are here 24 hours a day, so please call any time. All calls and phone services are free and confidential.


[1]    http://www.nationalhomeless.org/factsheets/addiction.pdf. “Substance Abuse and Homelessness.” National Coalition for the Homeless. Jul 2009. Web. 15 Jun 2016.

[2]    http://crosscut.com/2016/05/addiction-and-homelessness-fixing-the-vicious-cycle-2/. “Addiction and Homelessness: Fixing the Vicious Cycle.” Crosscut. 19 May 2016. Web. 15 Jun 2016.

,