According to a new study, drug overdose has overtaken AIDS as the leading cause of death among homeless adults. Researchers studied over 28,000 homeless adults from the Boston area from 2003 to 2008. They saw the drug overdose death rate triple over those five years, due to a rise in painkiller abuse. Seventeen percent of the homeless died from drug overdoses, compared to 6 percent from HIV. Drug overdose was the leading cause of death, followed by cancer and heart disease.
Drug abuse and homelessness can become a cycle, with drug abuse increasing the odds of homelessness and also making it harder to find shelter. Although the study focused on the Boston area, researchers say the results apply to other states and cities as well. The type of drug use varies by region, and prescription painkiller abuse may be more common in Boston because of its high concentration of hospitals. The study looked at clients from Boston Health Care for the Homeless Program, and the organization’s medical director says the results of the study have prompted them to integrate addiction services into their care.
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