Substance Abuse Intervention for Homeless Youth Research Paper

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Substance Abuse and Homeless Youth

The focus of this research paper is to discuss the connection between homelessness in youth populations and Substance Abuse. "Homeless young adults are defined as individuals between 12 and 24 years of age who are without stable housing and who identify with the culture and economy of living on the street [1, 7-9]. Identification with street culture includes engaging in accepted practices for earning money (such as panhandling), adopting unique slang language and developing strategies to prevent victimization" (Gomez et al., 2010). Thus, with homeless youths, the homelessness is not a temporary flirtation with time away from home, but a complete and thorough transition to life on the streets. This distinction is important to make, as this paper is will be examining homeless youths: these youths are homeless by choice: either as a result of the fact that life at home had become unmanageable, or they were thrown out of the house by their parents, or because their decision to abuse drugs caused them to become homeless. The homelessness of the youths examined in this paper has gone on long enough to be considered a way of life.Download full Download Microsoft Word File
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TOPIC: Research Paper on Substance Abuse Intervention for Homeless Youth Assignment

Many people assume that many homeless youth have an addiction or substance abuse problem which they grapple with. While this is a stereotype to some extent, it's based on a certain level of truth. "Substance abuse is often a cause of homelessness. Addictive disorders disrupt relationships with family and friends and often cause people to lose their jobs. For people who are already struggling to pay their bills, the onset or exacerbation of an addiction may cause them to lose their housing. A 2008 survey by the United States Conference of Mayors asked 25 cities for their top three causes of homelessness. Substance abuse was the single largest cause of homelessness for single adults (reported by 68% of cities)… According to Didenko and Pankratz (2007), two-thirds of homeless people report that drugs and/or alcohol were a major reason for their becoming homeless" (NCH, 2009). If this data demonstrates anything, it shows that beyond a shadow of a doubt, there is an indelible relationship between addiction and homelessness.

When it comes to homeless youth, the relationship with substance abuse is even stronger. Some homeless youth had been kicked out of their homes because of their substance abuse problem; others were introduced to substances while they were out on the street. The fact that homeless youth are unsupervised by adults at all times means they're particularly vulnerable and at risk for a range of risky behaviors, many of which revolve around addictive substances. For example, "Homeless youth are 3 times more likely to use marijuana and 18 times more likely to use crack cocaine than non-homeless youth" ( This statistic clearly demonstrates how homeless youth are indeed an incredibly at risk group who are dramatically more vulnerable than their counterparts that have homes. Back in 1997 almost twenty years ago, the problem was just as bad; in a study that was conducted of just under 500 homeless youths in Los Angeles, 71% had a problem with substances abuse (Wyman).

One of the exacerbated problems of substance abuse with homeless youth is the fact that the substance abuse acts as a tremendous obstacle in rectifying their homelessness. Furthermore, living on the streets places these vulnerable and needy kids in an environment where drugs are ubiquitous. As one veteran of teen homelessness explains, "On the streets drugs are all around you, always being offered to you, people always walkin' around smashed. I'd like to see anyone live on the streets and not take drugs at some point; I really do think that's impossible. Hey, I don't like drugs, but sometimes it's really hard not to take them. Most people on the streets have some degree of depression, and sometimes your resilience gets low" (Oldtimer, 2011). This indicates the severity of the need in addressing this issue as a societal and public health concern. For instance, this quote demonstrates that if a teenager doesn't already have a problem with drugs by the time they're on the streets, such a substance abuse problem will likely develop once they're on the streets, not simply as a result of the pervasiveness of the problem, but because living on the streets is so hard and so draining that these kids start to use drugs as a form of escapism.

The rationale for this study is based largely on need and on a problem that has long been poorly met. For instance, when it comes to homeless youth and drug surveys, homeless youth have a higher rate of drug use, drug abuse and drug experimentation (Wyman, 1997). Furthermore "Street youths were involved in more serious drug use than were youths living in shelters or at home. For instance, substantially more street youths than shelter youths used heroin and other injection drugs, methamphetamines, and crack cocaine" (Wyman, 1997). At 75%, almost all street youths use marijuana and approximately 30% use other forms of drugs including stimulants, hallucinogens and analgesics; one quarter of the youths have used or were using hard drugs like crack cocaine (Wyman, 1997). Even though these rates of drug abuse were in prevalent in late nineties, doesn't mean that the numbers are obsolete or inconsequential. If anything, the rates of drug abuse among homeless teenagers can only be expected to escalate, given the new drugs which have emerged on the marketplace and in social situations. A good example of this is the "legal highs" from designer drugs which have emerged: oxycontin is a clear example of this (at least when it first debuted on the marketplace).

Designer drugs and new prescription drugs which pack a huge punch to the brain and nervous system have become even easier to get. "Internet plays a signi-can't role for the distribution of 'legal highs', becoming one of the major 'drug market'. Adolescents and young adults who are curious about drugs may search on the Internet and thereby become exposed to thousands of sites that expound upon the positive effects of drugs and downplay or deny any negative effects. Use of mephedrone is mainly a youth phenomenon. The hazardous side-effects are strong desire to re-dose, uncomfortable changes in body temperature and heart rate, hallucinations and psychosis" (Vardakou et al., 2011). Their ease of procurement, along with their highly addictive quantity means that such drugs can easily create more addicts. More young addicts leads to the likelihood of more homeless addicts, as drug use and abuse is one common reason as to why certain teenagers are thrown out of the house by their parents.

The exacerbated need for treatment also orbits around the fact that with homeless and runaway teenagers there are a range of other conditions which of co-occur with drug abuse, such as STDs, pregnancy, depression, suicide and others. Even though a range of public health services might exist, there are still system barriers which prevent members of this select population from receiving adequate care. "In addition to the barriers experienced by the adult homeless population, homeless adolescents confront further hurdles stemming from their age and developmental stage. Some of these impediments include a lack of knowledge of clinic sites, fear of not being taken seriously, concerns about confidentiality, and fears of police or social services involvement. Improved access to appropriate health care is necessary if we are to better support and care for this population of young people" (Feldmann & Middleman, 2003). Even so, the need for care and counseling that this population presents is not being sufficiently met; part of the reason for this is because this population can't easily be considered, single and homogenous: rates of drug use even can vary widely depending on factors like age, gender and race.

However, one facet is generally agreed upon: in order to better reach this vulnerable population and in order to get a large portion of this population receiving treatment, there simply needs to be greater visibility of service providers -- in number and in mode of service. For example, vans which provide outreach staff well educated in forms of drug treatment and counseling that can travel to areas where youth congregate is an example of an effective means or attempt at service.

In the past few years, the numbers of homeless youth have increased as a result of the fledgling economy. "Over the past two years, government officials and experts have seen an increasing number of children leave home for life on the streets, including many under 13. Foreclosures, layoffs, rising food and fuel prices and inadequate supplies of low-cost housing have stretched families to the extreme, and those pressures have trickled down to teenagers and preteens" (Urbina, 2009). While many of these kids don't necessarily have a drug problem, once they're homeless, they become at a high risk for developing one, given the fact that drugs are so prevalent on the streets.

Complexities of Assessment

When it comes to treating homeless youth with substance abuse issues,… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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How to Cite "Substance Abuse Intervention for Homeless Youth" Research Paper in a Bibliography:

APA Style

Substance Abuse Intervention for Homeless Youth.  (2013, May 23).  Retrieved December 1, 2021, from

MLA Format

"Substance Abuse Intervention for Homeless Youth."  23 May 2013.  Web.  1 December 2021. <>.

Chicago Style

"Substance Abuse Intervention for Homeless Youth."  May 23, 2013.  Accessed December 1, 2021.