Financing Cocaine Use in a Homeless Population

Financing Cocaine Use in a Homeless Population


Abstract: 


Background: Cocaine use is highly prevalent among homeless populations, yet little is known about how it is financed. This study examined associations of income sources with cocaine use and financing of drugs in a longitudinal evaluation of a homeless sample. 


Methods: A homeless sample was recruited systematically in St. Louis in 1999–2001 and longitudinally assessed annually over two years using the Diagnostic Interview Schedule and the Homeless Supplement, with urine drug testing. 


Results: More than half (55%) of participants with complete follow-up data (N = 255/400) had current year cocaine use. Current users spent nearly $400 (half their income) in the last month on drugs at baseline. Benefits, welfare, and disability were negatively associated and employment and income from family/friends, panhandling, and other illegal activities were positively associated with cocaine use and monetary expenditures for cocaine. 


Conclusions: Findings suggest that illegal and informal income-generating activities are primary sources for immediate gratification with cocaine use and public entitlements do not appear to be primary funding sources used by homeless populations. Policy linking drug testing to benefits is likely to have little utility, and public expenditures on measures to unlink drug use and income might be more effectively used to fund employment and treatment programs.

Keywords:

 homelessness; substance use; cocaine; financing; income; public entitlements; longitudinal; diagnostic assessment; urine drug testing; panhandling


JOURNAL: Behavioral Sciences
VOLUME: 7
ISSUE: 4
PUBLICATION DATE: 2017