Housing Options Impact Addiction Treatment

Addiction to drugs or alcohol can affect many other areas of life. It can break down relationships, family ties and academic or employment achievement. As a result, those struggling with an addiction are often also struggling to maintain a stable home.

The focus of drug addiction treatment is to not only to reduce drug use, but also to improve social, vocational and educational relationships and help the individual to develop a better overall quality of life.

A recent study explored whether using stable housing as an initiative might impact the results of addiction treatment. The researchers compared methodologies being employed in Birmingham, Alabama and Vancouver, Canada.

In the Birmingham method, individuals who have an addiction and are homeless are required to enroll in intensive addiction treatment programs as a prerequisite to acquiring temporary housing.

The meta-analysis in Birmingham of four randomized controlled trials found that drug abstinence was better in the participants that were offered abstinent contingent housing options (58% versus 26%). However, at the 12 month follow-up period, only 36% of the homeless group was housed.

In Vancouver, the focus is on treatment using methadone maintenance therapy, addiction counseling and self-help groups, all covered by universal health care.

The study in Vancouver recruited 992 participants with a median age of 42.2 years. Just over a third of the participants were female, and 42.8% reported having been diagnosed with a mental illness. The mental illnesses ranged from depression and anxiety disorder to hyperactivity and schizophrenia.

At baseline, many of the participants were using drugs at least daily. 43% used crack cocaine daily, 10.4% used injection cocaine daily and 27.1% used heroin daily.

At baseline, approximately 50% of the 992 participants had been homeless. 80 of those 495 homeless participants had obtained stable housing by the follow-up. At baseline, there were 497 participants living in SRO hotels. During the follow-up period, 366 remained in this type of housing, and 131 attained stable housing in an apartment or a house.

The authors of the study believe that the results may be partly influenced by the desperate state that individuals find themselves in when they seek treatment for addiction. A person who is at a critical point in a struggle with addiction may seek immediate needs like food and shelter over more permanent, stable housing situations.

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