Two thirds of homeless people cite drug or alcohol use as a reason for first becoming homeless, while those who use drugs are seven times more likely to be homeless than the general population. 

Substance misuse is both a cause and a symptom of homelessness.  The stress of living on the streets - or the threat of becoming homeless – can reinforce the use of drugs or alcohol as a coping mechanism, trapping people in a vicious cycle.

Anyone can develop an addiction. For example, the NHS estimates that almost one in 10 men and one in 20 women in the UK show signs of alcohol dependence. For some, unresolved mental health issues or the persistent effects of past trauma may lie at the root of their substance use. For others, it may be struggling to cope with pressures at work or a traumatic life event such as bereavement that starts them on the slippery slope to addiction, and which ultimately leads to a crisis in their lives. 

Of course, not everyone who misuses alcohol or drugs becomes homeless and not every homeless person has problems with drugs or alcohol. But levels of drug and alcohol abuse remain relatively high amongst the homeless population.

In recent years the rise of new psychoactive substances - previously known as legal highs - have had a dramatic effect. There’s not enough known about many of these drugs to know about their potency, their effects on people, or what happens when they’re used with other substances or alcohol - but they have been linked to mental health problems, an increase in antisocial behaviour and crime and even deaths.

Some of these substances – like synthetic cannaboids such as Spice and Black Mamba - are highly addictive and are a causing concern among SHP support workers whose clients are using them in increasing numbers.

Addiction, be it alcohol or drugs, was rife. It was the norm to have a joint in your mouth at 13-years-old. 

After years of substance abuse and a string of prison sentences, Kevin was referred to our Camden Recovery Service after he finished a detox programme. He is now free from drugs, and pursuing a career in recovery. Kevin is keen to use his experiences to help others. 

Read Kevin's story