The Relationship Between Drug Addiction & Homelessness: A Cautionary Tale

It’s estimated that there are around 271,000 homeless people in the UK today. That’s a breathtaking amount. It’s something you wouldn’t wish on anybody, and you’d hate the horror of going through it yourself.

Life on the street is tough. Tougher than anyone can really imagine. There are cold nights, the fear of being unsafe and the fact you don’t know where you are going to get your next meal from.

Amidst all of this, drugs are prominent. Drug and alcohol addiction is rife among the homeless, and there has long been a relationship between the two. In fact, they very much seem to go hand-in-hand. But why is that?

Drug addiction is often a cause for homelessness

First and foremost, a number of people end up living on the streets as a result of drug addiction. Falling into financial instability, the loss of jobs and relationship problems, all of which often lead to having to leave the home with nowhere else to go.

It feels like there is no way out, and drug abuse continues to follow them as a coping mechanism, during the most difficult times.

Drugs become a coping mechanism

The homeless are among the most vulnerable people in society. It’s a heartbreaking position to be in, and the harsh reality of life on the streets lead to people using drugs to cope or self medicate from things like violence, social isolation and everything else that those sleeping rough suffer with. 

It’s an escape. Not only from that, but the monotony of living on the streets day in, day out.

And there are few ways to get better

Ultimately, drug addiction can spiral much quicker on the streets. Access to healthcare is more difficult, as is access to addiction support. With no stable place to live, and the lack of a support network, access to treatment programmes and rehabilitation can be difficult.

And with the authorities more likely to give people who aren’t abusing substances beds for the night or sheltered accommodation, it becomes a very difficult cycle to break.

Help on the horizon?

Thankfully, the challenges of homelessness are starting the be recognised more deeply across the UK. While it’s not enough, there are positive signs. Greater Manchester has the A Bed Every Night scheme in place, as an example. But things need to be done right across the country.

In London, data has revealed there are 1,700 more rough sleepers compared to last year, and drugs become an immenent risk. Charities like Shelter are doing their best, but authorities, businesses and other areas of support need to come forward more to try and end what is a viscious cycle, especially in 2023!

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