Homeless people are frequently stereotyped as being drug abusers or alcoholics. However, in reality, a high percentage of these people struggle with substance use disorder (SUD). A recent study conducted by researchers at the University of Washington suggested that ‘harm reduction treatment’ may actually prove to be beneficial for homeless individuals dealing with chronic alcoholism.
The researchers carried out a randomized control study on 168 homeless individuals living in or near downtown Seattle and struggling with chronic alcoholism. As per the study, half of these individuals saw a physician and created personal goals, like reconnecting with family members, dealing with mental health issues, consuming less alcohol or using substances other than alcohol, to improve their lives. The other half, comprising the control group, did not visit a physician.
20 percent reduction in alcohol consumption
The study revealed that after 3 months, the group which underwent harm reduction treatment displayed a 20 percent reduction in alcohol consumption, which was determined by their urine samples. Harm reduction treatment is a unique approach that does not force individuals to attain sobriety, but instead works as an alternative to abstinence programs.
Talking about the benefits of the harm reduction approach, Dr. Susan Collins, co-director of the Harm Reduction Research and Treatment (HaRRT) Center stated that it is usually the individuals themselves who know what is best for them, as there aren’t many options if people are not willing to give up or stop drinking. Since this research is in its nascent stage, the effects depicted in the study are short–term, and may not last for more than 3 months. It is not yet clear if the effects will have a long-lasting effect.
Sobriety-based treatment programs do not seem to be working for majority of people
Studies revolving around abstinence-based programs for homeless individuals dealing with chronic alcoholism have depicted that only 15 to 28 percent of these individuals start treatment. Also, out of the lot who opt for treatment, hardly one–third complete treatment. In addition, the majority of shelters and permanent housing projects have a prerequisite for sobriety which is rarely met by the homeless population.
Dr. Collins stated that sobriety-based treatment programs do not seem to be working for the majority of the homeless folks. Further, it would be unjust to say that these individuals are not putting in enough efforts, as it is the treatment system that is not fully accessible to them.
Prior to this study, Dr. Collins had studied Seattle’s 1811 Eastlake project targeted at homeless individuals who frequently used emergency medical services. This particular project offered shelter to homeless individuals without asking them to quit drinking. The research revealed that when these homeless individuals were provided shelter without a compulsion to give up drinking, alcohol usage reduced among them.
Seeking help for alcoholism
Alcohol, like any other substance can lead to severe short– and long–term physical, mental, and social consequences. Irrespective of gender, age, or social standing, anyone can suffer from alcohol addiction. An addiction should be perceived as an illness that necessitates treatment, support, and counseling for complete recovery and seamless rehabilitation. People battling an addiction to alcohol can seek relief from their symptoms only by undergoing a treatment program at a reliable alcohol addiction treatment center.
In case you or a loved one is battling an alcohol use disorder or an addiction to alcohol and is looking for credible alcohol abuse treatment centers, then get in touch with our 24/7 Alcohol Abuse Help. Call us at 866-480-6873 and speak with one of our representatives to get connected with the best treatment centers for alcohol addiction. You can also chat online with a member of our admissions team for further assistance.