The Relationship between Homelessness and Alcohol Addiction

The Relationship between Homelessness and Alcohol AddictionThe image of a homeless person clutching a bottle or smelling of gin is almost a cliché in American culture, but the truth is that there is a very close relationship between homelessness and alcoholism that is more complicated than many people think. According to the National Coalition for the Homeless up to 38% of homeless people are addicted to alcohol and 26% abused other substances. What many people do not realize, however, is that homelessness can be both the cause of, and the result of alcoholism.

Alcoholism Causing Homelessness

Alcohol addiction is a powerful physical and psychological disease that can move a person from financial security and strong family structure to absolute destitution. Once a person becomes addicted to alcohol, he will prioritize drinking over everything in his life. Eating, relationships, employment, personal healthcare and financial concerns all take a back seat to the disease. Many Americans live just a paycheck or two away from a serious housing crisis. The financial losses that can be sparked by addiction mount up very quickly.

Homelessness Causing Alcoholism

Alcoholism can also be caused by homelessness. Being homeless is incredibly stressful and many people use alcohol or drugs to cope. Alcohol can also help people sleep in uncomfortable places or cold temperatures. Drinking degrades the quality of sleep, and when the homeless use alcohol to help them tolerate miserable conditions, they place themselves at risk for additional complications, including hypothermia and frostbite.

Challenges to Treating Alcoholism among the Homeless

A majority of alcoholics also suffer from at least one co-occurring psychological disorder that they unwittingly self-medicate by drinking. These underlying conditions complicate recovery and often become additional obstacles for homeless people to overcome. Some examples of emotional disorders that co-occur with alcoholism include the following:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety or panic attacks
  • Obsessive compulsive disorder
  • Personality disorders
  • Schizophrenia
  • Psychosis

While alcohol may mask certain mental health conditions for a time, as the addict builds a tolerance, the underlying symptoms return. Homeless alcoholics face many other challenges to recovery:

  • Fear and paranoia keeps them from accepting help
  • Access to residential treatment can be extremely limited in some areas with long waiting lists
  • Many homeless people believe that they can’t afford treatment
  • Many other homeless people who want help can’t find proper financial and logistical support

Increased government efforts at re-categorizing homelessness as a mental health issue may improve the effectiveness of contemporary treatment and awareness programs.

Alcoholism Help

If you are a homeless person struggling with alcoholism, please call our toll-free helpline right now. Our admission coordinators are available any time of day or night with immediate access to excellent services and information. If you are looking for help for a friend or loved one, please call. We can help you navigate the often confusing world of recovery expenses, insurance, financial aid and government assistance. Many homeless people have been successfully reintegrated into society once their underlying mental health issues were identified and addressed along with their addiction. Call now.

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