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Mental Illness, Homeless and Substance Abuse

September 11, 2017
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mental illness substance abuse

Many people who are not in the recovery and often living on the streets have a mental illness that has not been diagnosed.  Or the person has been diagnosed and doesn’t want to take medications or can’t afford them.  Or the illness is too much and the person just can’t be reasoned with.  In any situation, mental illness is contributing to much of these people being on the streets without work or homes.  These people often turn to substance abuse to numb or just not face the issues that seem monumental in their lives.

There seems to be a “definite connection between mental illness and the use of addictive substances” as stated by the National Bureau of Economic Research.  Mental health disorder patients are responsible for the consumption of 38 % of alcohol, 44 % of cocaine, 40 % of cigarettes.  This group also reports that people who have been diagnosed with a mental health disorder at some point in their lives are responsible for the consumption of 69 % of alcohol, 84 % of cocaine, and 68% of cigarettes.  These patients with mental illness often use drugs and alcohol to feel more comfortable in social situations.

Panic attack patients use Xanax and Valium to calm the symptoms or stop the attacks.  Marijuana patients use this to numb pain, which isn’t always unhealthy for the patient.  Low energy patients take Adderall, cocaine, or meth to stay up and increase the drive to get things done.  Many patients also have other symptoms that are related to PTSD and these do need support.  And more serious mental issues make patients not make responsible decisions.

Why does this happen?  Drugs of abuse can experience one or more symptoms of another mental illness.  Increased risk of psychosis in some drug abusers has been offered as evidence as well. Patients with schizophrenia have higher rates of alcohol, tobacco, and other drug abuse than the general population. Smoking has been proposed to help self-medicate all these patients, and the addiction to nicotine is very high in all these situations.

What can we do to help these people?  And if this is myself, what can I do now?  Reach out to someone for help.  Make a call.  Do something to contact someone or someplace that can help. There are community resources that are there waiting to support you.  There are recovery centers ready to get you detoxed and find out what to do to help.  Use the support out there to make a change.  No one wants to live on the street—or at least very few do.  But more and more people are just tired of the fight.  The mental illness that lives within 24/7.  Talking to others is a big help, and getting medications that are correct will help!  And with continued support and positive medical care, the changes in your life can begin to become real.




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Warren Boyd
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