Effect of Social Security Payments on Substance Abuse in a Homeless Mentally Ill Cohort
Marc I. Rosen, Thomas J. McMahon, HaiQun Lin, Robert A. Rosenheck
The purpose of this study is to determine whether receipt of social supplemental security income (SSI) or Social Security disability income (SSDI) payments is associated with increased drug and alcohol use. Secondary analysis of data from 6,199 participants in the Access to Community Care and Effective Social Supports and Services demonstration for the homeless mentally ill was used for an observational, 12-month, cohort study completed over 4 years. Substance abuse and other outcomes were compared between the participants who did not receive SSI or SSDI during the 12-month study, those newly awarded benefits, and those without benefits throughout the 12 months. Social Security administrative records were used to corroborate Social Security benefit status. Drug and alcohol use were measured by self-report and clinician ratings. Participants who did not receive benefits significantly reduced their substance use over time. In generalized estimating equations models that adjusted for potentially confounding covariates, participants who newly received Social Security benefits showed no greater drug use than those without benefits, but had significantly more days housed and fewer days employed. Participants whose benefits antedated the demonstration and continued during the 12 months had more clinician-rated drug use over time than those without benefits. In this vulnerable population, participants with newly awarded benefits did not have any different drug use changes than those without benefits, and had relatively more days housed. The hypothesis that Social Security benefits facilitate drug use was not supported by longitudinal data in this high-risk population.