AIDS was the medical scare of the 1990s. It has somewhat tapered down as a hot topic at this point in time. However, AIDS still kills certain populations such as the homeless who are without proper health care. Yet, today more homeless deaths are caused by drugs in that population. Paije Klatt, writing for Akgulian News reported today that a new study conducted on Boston’s homeless reveal that overdosing on heroin and other prescription drugs has surpassed AIDS as the number one killer in the homeless population.
The study was conducted on homeless individuals in urban centers who had received treatment at Boston Health Care for the Homeless Program. According to Dr. Travis Baggett of Massachusetts General Hospital, ”the tripling in the rate of death by drug overdose reflects an overall rise in pain-killer abuse. This trend is happening across the country, in non-homeless populations too. Homeless people tend to experience in a magnified way the health issues that are going on in the general population."
Death caused by cancer and heart disease came in at second and third place. Premature death is more likely to occur among this segment of society. Young homeless individuals between the ages of 25 to 44 are more likely to die in any given year than the older homeless population between the ages of 45 to 64.
Leading cause for death among the homeless in the United States
According to the results of the study, 17 percent of the deaths were caused by overdosing, while only six percent of the deaths were related to HIV. The results of this new study yield the reversal of what was happening according to a study done 10 years before.
Medline Plus published according to Neil Donovan, executive director for the National Coalition for the Homeless the exact drugs vary from region to region. “Heroin and opiate pain-killers are the most available and most used drugs along the coasts, while methamphetamine is more common through the middle of the country and prescription pain-killers tend to be abused around large military bases.
Donovan writes, "Fifteen years ago we were talking about homeless people drinking Listerine and that being a leading indicator, and now it's Oxycontin and heroin and it's a very different reality," said Donovan, whose group was not involved in the study. Prescription painkiller abuse is somewhat more common in Boston than other cities due to the high concentration of hospitals and doctors, which make it easier for users to gain access to the drugs.
Leading cause for death among the homeless in Canada
The fate of the homeless is somewhat different in Canada. The homeless population is at a 127 percent higher risk for dying than the average Canadian. Charity Intelligence Canada reports that on average a homeless person will be 39-years-old at the time of death. Half of these deaths are caused by suicide.