Research has shown that illicit drug use is now a common feature of homelessness. A main aim of the study was to examine the role that drugs played in the lives of young homeless people. Two hundred young homeless drug users (aged 14–25 years) were interviewed. Respondents reported a variety of health problems. Respiratory infections, aching limbs and weight loss were the most common, but of greater concern was mental health and 82% reported psychological symptoms: depression, sometimes severe and often chronic, anxiety and aggression. A very high proportion (43%) had attempted suicide, mostly through drug overdose. Three-quarters of the sample said they used drugs to self-medicate their symptoms. Drug use is one form of stress management that is widely adopted by many people, whether homeless or not, but the particular nature of the stressors endemic in the homeless lifestyle leads to a much increased vulnerability to such self- medication when other coping strategies fail.
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