Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Housing and Addiction

People who have not had an addiction and don't know about addiction often have very erroneous preconceived ideas that are blatantly false. I am a recovered person who is a medical authority on addiction having working with addiction for over 30 years. I continue to learn and what I learn continues to surprise me.

Housing is the recent revelation. It's really hard to find 'clean' and 'safe' housing. It's something people take for granted, especially the middle class. I began to appreciate the predatorily world that some of my patients live in when it was explained to me that sleeping on the street was 'safe'. Thieves, rapists and brutal muggers operate in the back lanes and out of the eye of police cruisers. It's simply hard to find a place to sleep. People steal your shoes.

In crack houses, if it's not bolted down it goes for drug money.

So many of my patients live in hotels where dealers literally roam the halls. If my patients want to remain clean and sober they have to say no dozens of times a day to people in their building or immediate community. At the street level a dealer is another user who gets his fix from getting you to buy from him. It's only once removed that the actual 'dealer' is a businessman. Busting street dealers is not terribly effective whereas addressing the 'businessman' problem is. The credo of the businessman is 'don't use your product.'

A recent New England study showed that if people were given safe and drug free housing first there was tremendous success in treatment of addiction and mental illness problems. This goes against the standard wisdom that 'good' housing should be a 'reward'.

When I reported drug dealers making weekly sales excursions to psychiatric hospitals I worked at the administration wasn't interested. Compartmentalization within the systems of care continues to be a problem. Interagency task forces are proving increasingly effective. Any addiction treatment for the chronically ill needs to consider 'safe' housing. Policing of the communities should not be for 'using' but rather for 'dealing'.

Drug court, methadone programs, AA, NA, SMART, Dual Diagnosis programs, Detox facilities and Rehab centers are all solutions. Ironically the rich like 'gated' communities when if anything that's what the poor drug addict needs if he or she hopes to stay clean and sober. Much of the 'revolving door' problem in the field is at the housing and community level.

In regards to civil liberties and human rights would it not be possible to consider that as a basic freedom I should be able to have a home and immediate community free from drug dealers. When I think back to quitting cigarettes I'm not sure I could have done that if someone was offering me a smoke on the hour, every hour of my waking existence. Just considering how fortunate I was when I quit smoking to be able to avoid smoke and smokers causes me to judge heroin, crack, meth and pot addicts less severely.

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Location:W 13th Ave,Vancouver,Canada

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