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Drug and alcohol abuse prevalent among UK homeless population

A study by researchers at the University of Birmingham has found high rates of alcohol abuse, drug dependence, and mental health issues among the country’s homeless population. The researchers analysed data collected from almost 1,000 patients who had received services at the Birmingham Homeless Healthcare Centre. The study found that 20% had received offers of help for alcohol misuse, while almost 12% had received offers of help for substance dependence issues. Also, the researchers identified a high incidence of infectious hepatitis C.

West Midlands Combined Authority and Public Health England funded the study, which appeared on 1 July in the British Journal of General Practice. The study also showed that almost one-third of the homeless population had received services at an accident and emergency department during the previous 12 months. This rate was almost 60% higher than the admission rate recorded in the general population.

“The study provides compelling evidence about the health problems faced by homeless people,” said the study’s lead investigator, Dr Vibhu Paudyal. “Participants, whose average age was 38 years old, had two or more serious chronic medical conditions, a rate comparable to people in their 60s.”

The researchers urged GP practices to make it easier for homeless people to register for services, and to direct them to specialists in providing services to the homeless population if any are in the area. Housing advocate, Shelter, believes that the UK has more than 320,000 homeless people and that the population continues to increase.

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