Physically and Mentally Disabled Addiction Treatment

Drug and alcohol addiction is a disorder that plagues millions of people in the United States. Substance use disorder (SUD) affected 18.7 million people in 2017 alone, according to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health.

Some studies suggest as many as 40 percent of disabled people have substance abuse problems. The individuals may have a mental or physical disability, which may make rehabilitation more challenging and require unique approaches to recovery.

Treatment is available for individuals with mental and physical disabilities. Not every facility accommodates people who have disabilities, though. For instance, they might not provide treatment options or have the ability to respond to people’s concerns. Facilities that do address the needs of individuals often offer dual diagnosis treatment that targets the addiction as well as mental illness to help clients manage their conditions.

About Disabilities

A disability is an impairment of the mind or body. It may make it difficult for people to do things. A disability may be an impairment of person’s mental or physical state, such as a hearing loss.

People with disabilities may have limitations when doing certain things. For instance, people with mental disabilities may lack problem-solving skills or the ability to recall events or facts. If you have a disability, it may impact several aspects of your life, including your health, socialization, education, career, and recreational activities.

A person may be born with a disability or develop one as a result of an injury or disease. A disability does not always worsen over time. Sometimes, the condition stays the same or improves.

In some cases, people may have bouts of time when they experience symptoms related to their disabilities as well as remission phases when they experience few or no symptoms. It is not always possible to tell if people have disabilities just by talking with them or watching them. Observation may not indicate if disabilities affect people or to what extent they are affected.

  • Physical disabilities: Physical disabilities interfere with movement and mobility, often causing difficulties with daily tasks such as getting around. A physical disability may limit what someone is able to do at work or school. Some examples of physical disabilities include cerebral palsy (CP), lupus, multiple sclerosis (MS), rheumatoid arthritis (RA), and spinal cord injuries.
  • Sensory disabilities: Sensory disabilities include issues that affect any of the five senses. Such disabilities may include blindness and deafness. People who have extreme difficulty hearing or seeing also have sensory disabilities.
  • Mental disabilities: Mental disabilities describe issues that affect a person mentally. This category describes mental conditions as well as mental disorders. For instance, anxiety, Alzheimer’s disease, and Down syndrome are in this particular category. Although autism is a sensory issue, it sometimes is included in this classification. Mental disabilities include conditions such as schizophrenia, eating disorders, Tourette syndrome, and personality disorders.

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Disabilities and Addiction

More than 4.7 million people with disabilities in the United States also have a problem with substance abuse, according the the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services. More research is necessary to identify the exact relationship between substance abuse and disabilities. While the exact cause for the connection is not known, there are some theories.

For example, people with disabilities may not have received education about preventing substance use disorders or using substances. They may feel the need to self-medicate to contend with their disabilities.

They may find it difficult to face peer pressure, so they use drugs or alcohol to fit in with others who are using. This behavior may help them feel more socially accepted and liked by their peers. Or, if they are having difficulty making friends, disabled people may use substances to avoid feeling isolated and lonely.

Other factors may make someone with a disability more likely to abuse a substance than someone who does not have a disability. For example, some people with disabilities have limited educations. They may not have the ability to work and live like other people. They may have recurring pain and discomfort that interfere with daily life.

Sometimes, people with disabilities develop issues with their self-esteem. It is also possible for a disability to contribute to other disorders such as depression or anxiety. If people already have prescriptions for sedatives or pain relieving drugs, they may feel compelled to overmedicate themselves.

Statistics reveal that more than 50 percent of people who have had a traumatic brain injury, spinal cord injury, or mental illness have also abused substances. The rate of substance abuse in people who have arthritis, multiple sclerosis, or deafness is about double than the general population.

Approximately 50 percent of people who have had amputations, blindness, degenerative disc diseases, or spinal cord injuries and also reported drinking may also be considered heavy drinkers. A person with a substance use disorder and a disability also has a condition known as a co-occurring disorder, comorbidity, or dual diagnosis. Such statistics indicate the need for inpatient rehab solutions that are specific to people’s needs.

One study reported that disabled people used higher amounts of sedatives, stimulants, tranquilizers, and painkillers in larger amounts than people who do not have disabilities. Studies also reveal that disabled individuals are more likely to abuse substances.

The U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) recognizes that people with and without disabilities may experience hurdles that hinder their recovery. For instance, either group may lack the funds to obtain necessary treatment.

People with disabilities have special needs that may make obtaining care difficult even if they have the money and willingness to find treatment. Not every inpatient rehab is accessible to people who have physical handicaps. Nor does every facility offer support to people who have some form of disability.

Facilities do exist for people with disabilities. They have ramps and other special features that accommodate people with physical handicaps. Some facilities offer support for individuals who suffer from mental disabilities.

Substance Abuse and Reduced Quality of Life

Substance abuse harms the quality of life for every person, but this harm is an even more prevalent concern for someone with a mental or physical disability. Drug or alcohol abuse may impair people’s thinking, possibly causing them to make poor decisions that could affect their health and other aspects of their lives.

Consuming drugs or alcohol makes maintaining muscle coordination and control difficult, especially for people who have physical disabilities. For people who already struggle to take care of themselves, substance abuse may make individuals less likely to manage their hygiene or take care of their health.

Drugs and alcohol may cause or worsen existing anxiety, depression, or other mental issues. It is possible for drug and alcohol problems to worsen current disabilities. If disabled people use prescription drugs, their medications may interact with drugs or alcohol negatively.

Alcohol and drugs may also affect socialization, since they may make people more isolated. Substance abuse may make it more difficult to finish schoolwork or complete activities. Completing a diploma or degree or keeping a job may be harder, since people may spend more time using substances than studying or working. Drug or alcohol problems may hurt individuals in many ways.

Finding Treatment for the Disabled

Finding a treatment program is not always easy for a person with a disability. There are barriers that make it difficult for everyone to seek treatment. For example, financial hardships could make people reluctant to find help.

This may especially be true for disabled people who may not be able to work. They may not have insurance that helps them cover medical costs or fund rehabilitation programs.

In some cases, disabilities may isolate people from others. People may not be able to see them, so they do not know if they are abusing substance. Their problems may go unnoticed.

Disabilities may also create transportation issues, making it difficult for people to travel back and forth to treatment programs. Even if people do find treatment, the options in their area might not accommodate their mental or physical disabilities.

The programs might be at venues that do not allow them to maneuver easily. Or, the programs might not have staff members who are able to address people’s disabilities. People may not be able to find treatment programs that meet their needs.

Finding Addiction Treatment for the Physically Disabled

Accessibility is a primary concern for people who have physical disabilities when they seek addiction treatment. For instance, if you have a spinal cord injury, you might require an inpatient rehab that is wheelchair accessible. People who are blind or deaf need facilities that have workers, signs, and other accommodations. People who are deaf may work better with staff members who understand and use sign language. Some who is blind may require materials that use Braille.

Some treatment facilities have found it difficult to serve the needs of prospective clients due to accessibility issues. In particular, these facilities may have had physical barriers such as wheelchair inaccessibility.

It does not matter whether the facilities were private or public, the facilities did not have the means to assist people with physical disabilities. Some residential and outpatient programs could not make arrangements to accept people. Even some hospital-based programs turned away people with physical disabilities.

When people with physical disabilities look for drug rehab programs, they may want to find rehab facilities that do not just physically accommodate them but also offer vocational rehabilitation programs.

The U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) recommends that people with physical disabilities seek vocational rehabilitation because the programs provide motivation. Vocational rehabilitation programs may help people overcome the challenges they face, which may boost their confidence and increase their likelihood of recovering.

Accessibility is another factor. Facilities should offers ramps, elevators, other mobility assistance, Braille, and other accommodations. Physical therapy and exercise programs are also vital. Exercise motivates and produces endorphins that may make people feel better naturally. Activity also boosts people’s confidence and may help them manage their cravings.

Finding Addiction Treatment for the Mentally Disabled

People who have mental disabilities may require different accommodations than people with physical disabilities and people without disabilities. When facilities do not have the necessary services and accommodations for mentally disabled people, people may feel frustrated. If they do not feel like they are benefitting from treatment, they may be more likely to quit their treatment programs. They may feel despair and believe that treatment is not going to work for them, even though there are facilities that may help them.

Having mental issues may make it difficult to find treatment programs, since standard outpatient or inpatient rehab programs may not offer adequate support and resources. People should look for dual diagnosis treatment with staff members who understand the specific needs of people with addictions and other medical issues.

In addition, people who have mental disabilities may have issues that affect their retention, intellect, or attention, so they need materials and approaches that they can understand. The programs may include repetition and routine comprehension checks, making people more likely to understand and remember information.

Effective programs for people with mental disabilities may feature information presented in different ways. Educational materials may use sight, sound, and touch, for example. The approaches may help people focus and retain information better.

Sharing experiences may be less helpful for people with mental disabilities since they may not understand how to interpret someone else’s experiences and apply the lessons to their own lives. Therefore, people with mental disabilities may benefit more from formal lessons instead of sharing opportunities.

Medical disclaimer:

Sunshine Behavioral Health strives to help people who are facing substance abuse, addiction, mental health disorders, or a combination of these conditions. It does this by providing compassionate care and evidence-based content that addresses health, treatment, and recovery.

Licensed medical professionals review material we publish on our site. The material is not a substitute for qualified medical diagnoses, treatment, or advice. It should not be used to replace the suggestions of your personal physician or other health care professionals.

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