Friday, January 20, 2012

Homeless Heavy Drinkers Cutting Back


Homelessness is a major problem in a America, one that has grown as we have drifted into an economic recession. Many people on the streets have what most would consider a problem with alcohol which in the past might make it difficult for them to receive aid from housing programs for homelessness across the country. A study that was conducted following participants who took part in a Seattle housing program has shown some interesting results.

Heavy drinkers who were formerly homeless and were provided housing actually cut back on their drinking if they were allowed access to alcohol, according to the study.

The program called Housing First, was developed by a housing agency in Seattle. The program provides housing to chronically homeless people and not drinking isn’t one of the requirements, according to HealthDay.

The researchers reported that when homeless people who drank heavily were given housing and allowed to continue drinking, the average number of drinks consumed on the heaviest drinking day of the month fell from 40 to 26 over two years, a 35 percent drop. The median number of drinks fell from 22 to 11 drinks per typical drinking day, a decrease of 50 percent. Participants’ recent bouts of delirium tremens, dropped from 65 percent to 23 percent.

“These individuals have multiple medical, psychiatric and substance abuse problems, and housing that requires them to give up their belongings, adhere to curfews, stop drinking and commit to treatment all at once is setting them up to fail. The result is that we are relegating some of the most vulnerable people in our community to a life on the streets,” lead author Susan Collins of the University of Washington said in a news release.

“A lot of people believe in the ‘enabling hypothesis’ – that allowing homeless, alcohol-dependent individuals to drink in their homes will enable them to drink more, and their drinking will spiral out of control,” Collins said. “But instead what we found are across-the-board decreases in alcohol consumption and problems.”

The research can be seen in the American Journal of Public Health.

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