Medicine/Healing

The mischaracterized relationship between drug use and homelessness

…persistent stereotypes inflate the public perception of drug use among unhoused people far beyond reality, and suggest that illicit drug use has only one trajectory: the downward spiral… there are practical reasons, too, for homeless people’s specific choices of drugs. Stimulants, for example, may help people to stay awake at night when it is most unsafe to be unaware of one’s surroundings. Alcohol or drugs like opioids can reduce the experience of cold or provide a sense of comfort.

Contrary to their expectations, the researchers did not in fact find “substance abuse” to be a direct cause of homelessness. Neither did it turn out to prevent accumulation of “human capital” (“assets,” such as education or employment) that might be presumed to protect against homelessness: Education levels were similar among literally homeless and at-risk respondents, so having a higher education did not protect struggling people from that final push into literal homelessness… Rather, the researchers found, problematic substance use plays “a critical role” in what they called “disaffiliation”—the weakening of people’s social and institutional connections such as belonging to a church, having a network of friends, or having work and business relationships—making them more vulnerable to homelessness. (Even here, however, we should note that societal and institutional stigmatization of drug use, beyond any consequences of drug use itself, are at play; and that homeless people do retain supportive friends and networks of various kinds.)

Original Article (Filtermag):
The mischaracterized relationship between drug use and homelessness
Artwork Fair Use: Lextrounce

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