Local conventional wisdom is that homeless addicts and alcoholics are significantly less motivated to change than other addicts and alcoholics. This study in Addictive Behaviors used a emergency department visits as an opportunity to compare the readiness to change in homeless and non-homeless patients with substance use disorders:
Substance-using homeless persons frequent emergency departments and hospitals often. However, little is known about how homelessness affects when they seek care and their motivation for substance abuse treatment (SAT). We surveyed homeless (N = 266) and non-homeless (N = 104) substance-using adults sequentially admitted to an urban hospital medicine service, comparing demographics, readiness for change (URICA), and motivating reasons for SAT. Homeless respondents were more likely to be younger, uninsured, have hepatitis B/C, and although more homeless respondents were in an action stage. They also had similar motivating reasons for wanting SAT, although being homeless was an additional motivator for the majority of homeless respondents. Almost half reported that being homeless caused them to delay seeking health care; paradoxically those citing physical health as a SAT motivator were 3.4 times more likely to have delayed care. While acutely ill homeless persons were at least as motivated for SAT, these data suggest the challenge is getting them to care in a timely manner and tailoring interventions during the care episode to avail of this motivation.