Substance use and homelessness

This research explored changes in the tobacco, alcohol and illicit drug use of people experiencing homelessness in the UK. Particularly, the researchers examined the following questions:

  1. what are the characteristics of people with different patterns of substance use? 
  2. how do their patterns of substance use change over time?
  3. what factors explain changes in their patterns of substance use?
  4. what is the role of treatment and support?

Highlights from their longitudinal study found:

  • Patterns of substance use amongst people who are homeless are varied and changeable.
  • Men, UK nationals and people with longer homelessness histories use more substances.
  • Substance use decreased amongst people housed in emergency hotels during COVID-19.
  • Nicotine replacement therapy helped some people who were homeless to reduce smoking.
  • People who are homeless want pharmacotherapy, psychosocial support, and safe spaces.

The researchers concluded that substance use was reduced among this population when safe shelter, pharmacological treatment and psychosocial support is provided. The researchers reflect on the different accommodation models and interventions can be designed using these findings.

Neale, J., Parkin, S., Hermann, L., Metrebian, N., Roberts, E., Robson, D., & Strang, J. (2022). Substance use and homelessness: A longitudinal interview study conducted during COVID-19 with implications for policy and practice. International Journal of Drug Policy, 108, 103818.
United Kingdom