Drug-abusing Homeless Clients in California's Substance Abuse Treatment System

Published in: Journal of Psychoactive Drugs, v. 28, no. 2, Apr.-June 1996, p. 147-159

Posted on RAND.org on January 01, 1996

by Suzanne L. Wenzel, Patricia A. Ebener, Paul Koegel, Lillian Gelberg

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As many as one-half to three-fourths of homeless persons have diagnoses of alcohol or other drug dependence. Rates of alcohol and other drug use disorders, and the social costs associated with untreated substance disorder, are higher among homeless than nonhomeless persons. Despite the high level of need for treatment, relatively few substance-abusing homeless individuals receive treatment for their drug problems, suggesting difficulties in accessing treatment. This study addresses access by focusing on the select group of homeless drug users who have overcome barriers to enter the substance abuse treatment system in California and by examining differences between these homeless treatment clients and nonhomeless drug-using clients. Major findings from bivariate and logistic regression analyses performed on 187 homeless and 1,820 nonhomeless treatment clients are that homeless clients were more likely than nonhomeless clients to have a primary drug problem of cocaine/crack and to be injecting methamphetamine and other amphetamines, and that they were no less likely to complete their treatment program. An implication of this study is that homeless persons with primary drug problems appear to have no less commitment to achieving treatment goals than their nonhomeless counterparts.

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