Homeless Women More Likely Abuse Heroin Other Drugs - Addiction Treatment Services

Homeless Women More Likely to Abuse Heroin, Other Drugs

Homeless Women More Likely Abuse Heroin Other Drugs - Addiction Treatment ServicesAlthough drug and alcohol abuse is on the rise nationally among several demographics, substance abuse among the homeless is still more prevalent than in the rest of the population.

Thirty-eight percent of homeless people were dependent on alcohol and 26 percent abused other drugs, according to estimates back in 2003 by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

According to more recent data, only 10.1 percent of all Americans older than the age of 12 reported using illegal drugs within the previous month, the 2015 National Household Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) found.

Homelessness and Addiction Statistics

It’s well known that there is a strong correlation between addiction and homelessness. However, because homeless people often get ignored or overlooked by the health care system, actual stats are hard to find.

The most recent data available comes from Homeless Link, a U.K.-based charity that aims to provide help for the homeless. To determine what sort of help was needed, the group conducted a survey of 3,355 homeless people in 2015 to investigate the mental and physical health of this population.

The study found that:

  • 90 percent of all homeless people were suffering from some type of mental illness.
  • A total of 37 percent of those polled admitted to abusing alcohol within the last month.

Homeless Women at Even Greater Risk

Homeless Women And Men Abuse Heroin Statistic - Addiction Treatment ServicesThe study also found that homeless women are more likely than men to abuse heroin and crack cocaine.

  • 33 percent of women who were polled admitted to abusing heroin, while “only” 28 percent of the men did.
  • 31 percent of the women who were homeless stated that they abused crack cocaine in the last month, compared to 29 percent of the men.

The results from the study indicate that there is a severe lack of health care for people living on the streets, at least in the U.K. – although the United States would appear to be in a similar predicament.

The Homeless Link report recommends focusing on providing mental health and preventative care to the homeless to reduce the substance abuse problem.

“The details revealed by this research may be surprising, but they illustrate how useful a health-needs audit can be in accurately assessing the needs of those experiencing homelessness,” Jacqui McCluskey, director of policy and communications at Homeless Link, told a local CBS affiliate in D.C. “This evidence is vital for local areas to ensure the most effective responses to people’s needs are commissioned.”

Given that these statistics are already a few years old, the reality of the problem of addiction among the homeless may be even more severe than the stats indicate.

The Link Between Homelessness and Addiction

In some cases, drug or alcohol addiction is the cause of homelessness. In other cases, alcohol and drugs are abused after the participants became homeless, as a means of trying to cope with the situation.

The Mental Illness Factor

People who suffer from mental illness often have difficulty keeping employment and maintaining relationships. As a result, they may end up on the streets. They commonly turn to drugs and alcohol as a way to cope with the stress and discomfort of living without adequate food or shelter, and as a way to self-medicate the symptoms of their mental illness.

Many non-homeless people with mental illness also use addictive substances to self-medicate, so those with mental health issues may already be addicted when they become homeless.

The Opioid Epidemic and Heroin

The number of people in the U.S. who are addicted to heroin, an opiate drug, has exploded in recent years. In 2014, an estimated 2.5 million Americans were addicted to either heroin or prescription opioid drugs, and in 2015, more than 30,000 deaths resulted from overdoses on those same drugs.

This alarming trend is due in large part to the widespread use of prescription painkillers. These legal opioid drugs are extremely addictive and should only be used for short-term, acute pain management. However, many people use them for too long and become addicted. Once their painkiller prescriptions run out, they turn to heroin as a cheaper and more readily available alternative.

When the chase for the next high leads to loss of job and home, many of these heroin addicts end up on the streets.

We Must Stop the Cycle of Addiction and Homelessness

One study found that overdose has surpassed HIV as the leading cause of death among the homeless population, with opioids alone being responsible for more than 80 percent of those deaths.

Since drug use often leads to homelessness, it’s likely that as the drug problems in this country continue to grow, the homeless problem will also continue to grow. This would further increase the addiction problem. And it’s why it’s critical to break the cycle by getting homeless people the help they need.

In addition to traditional forms of support for the homeless, like food and housing, our society needs to also make sure these individuals also have access to addiction treatment and resources for managing mental illness.

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Opioid Epidemic Is Growing Because of Fentanyl and Heroin - ATS

Deaths From Fentanyl-Laced Heroin Continue to Soar

Deaths From Fentanyl-Laced Heroin Continue To Soar - Addiction Treatment ServicesThe latest data from the CDC indicates that more than 64,000 people died of drug overdoses during 2016. Deaths involving the powerful drug fentanyl, and other synthetic opioids, more than doubled over the previous year and contributed to 20,145 deaths.

A dose containing as little as 3 milligrams of fentanyl can kill. The deadly nature and prevalence of fentanyl-laced heroin make this opioid one of the most serious drug threats of our time.

The Slippery Slope of Drug Addiction

In 2016, the opioid epidemic killed more people than those killed during the entirety of the Vietnam War. The crisis began in the 1990s when doctors began prescribing opioids in increasing volumes for pain management. The health care industry enabled drug dependency for years, inadvertently creating a slippery slope toward illicit drug use.

While many people understand the origin story of the opioid epidemic, they rarely see the factors that continue to fuel the epidemic more than two decades later. Prescription drug use of codeine, fentanyl, hydrocodone, oxycodone and others is socially acceptable in many circles. Singers reference using, young people give in to peer pressure, and many doctors will prescribe medications up to the current legal limits.

When the prescription drugs dry up, heroin is cheap and far too easy to access. For less than the price of a pack of cigarettes, individuals can purchase heroin in most areas of any state. Powerful and unregulated, heroin purity and dosing varies widely. Heroin laced with fentanyl and fentanyl analogues are now killing addicted individuals in record numbers.

While more than 20,000 people died from fentanyl-related overdoses in 2016, recent research from the Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health suggests heroin dependence has more than tripled over the last decade. Millions of people may be at risk for a heroin and/or fentanyl-related overdose, especially men without much income or education. Without intervention, the risks of illicit drug use often turn into realities.

The Scope of the Fentanyl and Heroin Problem in Recent Years

The Sept. 1, 2017 edition of the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report indicates a third wave of the opioid epidemic emerged in 2013. Researchers attribute a large percentage of the increase in deaths over the last four years to fentanyl-laced drugs including heroin.

The use of fentanyl and fentanyl-like substances now contribute to more deaths than the use of heroin, prescription opioids, cocaine or methamphetamine alone. In some areas such as Massachusetts, a major center in the opioid crisis, the state Department of Public Health has recorded a decrease in total opioid-related deaths in 2017, yet it’s attributing an ever-increasing number of deaths to fentanyl.

In the Midwest in states such as Ohio, drug overdoses continue to rise. The state attributed more than 4,000 overdose deaths in 2016 to fentanyl and fentanyl-like substances.

Overdose Deaths on the Rise in Several States; Only Minor Progress in Others

Provisional overdose counts according to the CDC from January 2016 to January 2017 indicate:

  • A 71% increase in drug overdose deaths in Delaware
  • A 67% increase in drug overdose deaths in Maryland
  • A 55% increase in drug overdose deaths in Florida
  • A 50% increase in drug overdose deaths in New York City

While the increases often represent major jumps in death rates, the few decreases in the country only represent a mild decline. Overdose counts show:

  • An 8% decrease in drug overdose deaths in Nebraska
  • A 3% decrease in drug overdose deaths in Washington
  • A 3% decrease in drug overdose deaths in Wyoming

The total number of deaths is currently increasing at an unsustainable rate. If the trends of the past four years continue into the future, hundreds of thousands more will die before they receive the treatment needed to overcome a serious addiction.

The data indicates that since 2013, the US has faced more than a third wave of the opioid epidemic. Our country is facing a crisis within a crisis, because fentanyl is far more deadly than any other illicit drug sold today.

Information from the DEA shows law enforcement agencies secured a minimum of 239 kilograms of illegally manufactured fentanyl from 2013 to 2015. No one can say how many more kilograms slipped through the cracks during that time. Two-hundred and thirty-nine kilograms is enough fentanyl to kill tens of millions of people.

The Extreme Dangers of Fentanyl

A mere sprinkle of pure fentanyl can kill. The drug is 50 to 100 times more powerful than the active ingredient in heroin, and illegal drug manufacturers and dealers rarely disclose its presence in heroin. Drug traffickers use the powerful synthetic opioid to maximize profits, but one error can lead to overdose.

Professionals who respond to overdose calls and bust drug trafficking circles are at risk, too. Fentanyl can kill via inhalation or contact with skin. Those who come into contact with fentanyl and fentanyl-like substances such as carfentanil must seek medical intervention quickly to reduce the risk of overdose death.

The effects of fentanyl kick in much faster than the effects of other opioids, and overdose victims may need more than one dose of naloxone to overcome the effects. Anyone who deals, uses or confiscates illegally manufactured fentanyl faces the risks of overdosing.

A Widespread Problem

Celebrities including the singer Prince and Paul Gray, bassist for the band Slipknot, have died from fentanyl-related overdoses in the last few years. Others, including actors Philip Seymour Hoffman and Cory Monteith, have died from heroin-related overdoses in recent years. These examples underscore the fact that no one is immune from the dangers of heroin and fentanyl.

The problems with heroin and fentanyl extend far beyond celebrity circles. Today, high schoolers, young adults, professionals, parents and others are dying from opioid-related overdoses, many involving fentanyl-laced heroin. In America, drugs cause more accidental deaths than car accidents and shootings; and, the crisis is only spreading.

The UK also noticed a considerable increase in fentanyl-related deaths starting in 2016. More than 60 people have died in the UK from fentanyl-laced drugs since late 2016. In Canada, British Columbia coroners’ reports cited the powerful opioid in roughly 368 overdose deaths over a four-month period in 2017, and Alberta recorded 176 deaths in a five-month period.

Alcohol and drug rehab facilities can successfully curb the rate of death, but only if they reach addicted persons in time. Those addicted to opioids need ongoing treatment and support to overcome dependency and reduce their risk of encountering fentanyl-laced substances.

How to Stage an Intervention for Drug Addiction

The most recent estimates show only 10 percent of individuals with substance use disorders receive the specialized help they need.  Addicted individuals often need the support of sober family members, friends and professional treatment facilities to overcome opioid addictions of all kinds. Intervention help for families is certainly out there, and Addiction Treatment Services specializes in helping families find the right treatment.

Don’t wait to help a loved one make the personal decision to find treatment. Opioids represent a real and dangerous risk that users may not recognize before it’s too late. Stage an intervention with the help of professionals who know and understand opioid addiction.

Addiction Treatment Services believes everyone deserves an opportunity to overcome addiction. We’re here to help connect you to professional interventionists and assist you in your search for effective heroin detox and treatment programs that work with your insurance.

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Editor’s Note: This article was originally published in May 2014, but was updated in October 2017 to reflect more recent data and developments involving fentanyl, heroin and opioids.