It’s a common belief that most homeless people are addicted to drugs or alcohol. While this isn’t true of everyone, there are a distressingly high number of homeless who struggle with substance abuse. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, in 2003, 38 percent of homeless people were dependent on alcohol and 26 percent abused other drugs. Alcohol abuse is more common in older people, while drug abuse is more common in homeless youth and young adults. Substance abuse is also considerably more common among homeless people than within the general population. Unfortunately, many people refuse to seek help from homeless shelters because of anti-drug and alcohol policies, and they end up living on the streets with no money and no access to health care or sanitary conditions. One solution that some cities have tested is called wet shelters, meaning the residents are allowed to bring in alcohol and drink while there.
Not only are a large percentage of homeless people addicted to some substance, but that substance abuse is often the reason for the homelessness in the first place. People struggling with severe addictions often lose their jobs and spend what money they do have and drugs and alcohol. Add to this the damage addiction can cause to relationships, and it’s no wonder what so many of them end up unable to pay bills and with nowhere to live. It’s especially problematic when a person has an underlying mental disorder that both contributes to and is compounded by a substance abuse problem.
Moving into a homeless shelter with strict policies against drug and alcohol abuse likely sounds worse for a lot of people than continuing to live on the streets, considering the unpleasant and often dangerous effects of withdrawal. These are only worsened when one attempts to quit cold turkey. Symptoms can include delusions, seizures, tremors, high fevers, vomiting, diarrhea, cognitive difficulties, mood swings, rapid heart rate, and more. Dealing with these in a non-medical setting can prove deadly.
In a wet shelter, the resident would not have to stop drinking immediately and could taper off on their own timelines, while having food, shelter, and a support network including assistance with life skills and job searching. The goal is for them to get themselves to a place where they’re ready to seek treatment and then transition them from the shelter to a rehab facility. Wet shelters are proven to lower the levels of consumption among their clients, reduce the number of incidents with police and trips to the emergency room, result in fewer instances of violence, and allow for the residents to have improved sleep, healthier weight, immunizations and medical care, and better hygiene.
If you or a loved one need help with quitting drugs or alcohol, consider Asana Recovery. We offer medical detox, along with both residential and outpatient programs, and you’ll be supervised by a highly trained staff of medical professionals, counselors, and therapists. Call us any time at (949) 438-4504 to get started.