Homelessness, Mental Health and Substance Use: Understanding the Connections

Human experience is complex. Our choices and behaviours, including using substances, are influenced by numerous factors including our biology, our history and social values, and the physical and social environments we live in. People have been using a wide variety of psychoactive (mindaltering) drugs for thousands of years to celebrate successes; to help deal with grief, sadness, and other uncomfortable feelings; to mark rites of passage and to pursue spiritual insight. Drug use is deeply embedded in our cultural fabric. As a complex human behaviour, substance use requires that we look at it from a broad perspective that considers many factors, including our living conditions and our mental health. This includes factors such as pain relief, loneliness, trauma, difficult feelings, or the desire to feel good. These same factors impact people who are homeless in similar and yet, profoundly different ways. 


Publication Date: 
Canadian Institute for Substance Use Research