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Drug Misuse, Alcoholism, and Disability

Substance misuse is common among all groups of people. However, individuals with disabilities are at a higher risk of developing these types of problems. Also, they are less likely to seek treatment. Indeed, individuals with disabilities experience issues at double the rate of the general population. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Offices on Disability uncovered the relationship between alcoholism and disability. In fact, 74.6 million people in this country suffer from disabilities and substance misuse disorders simultaneously. A disability that goes unsupported brings a person to a low place. To be sure, it may lead to depression. In other words, the rate of co-occurring disorders is amplified as well.

It is important to think about the unique stresses that are brought upon people with mental and physical disabilities. For example, they are seen as outsiders from the regular world. Indeed, some are not able to qualify for certain work, earn certain benefits, or participate in normal activities. When alcohol or drugs become part of the equation, it can lead to serious consequences. At Harmony Place, we comprehend how a disability can make successful recovery even more difficult. Our staff works hard to provide effective treatments that fit with a person’s physical and mental needs.

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What Defines a Disability?

A disability is a type of impairment to a person’s mind, body, or emotions. To explain, a person may have physical limitations that make mobility difficult. On the other hand, a person may be suffering from a hidden disability like autism. Also, it may be short-term or long-term. There are countless disabilities that may strike.

  • Arthritis
  • Paralysis
  • Deafness
  • Blindness
  • Down’s syndrome
  • Developmental disorders
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Cystic fibrosis

Disability and Pain Medication Addiction

Many individuals who have disabilities must use prescription medicines to reduce pain and other effects of the conditions. Unfortunately, these types of drugs are very addictive. When a person has an opioid prescription, it may be easy for him or her to become dependent. Even a short-term prescription may start a long-term problem. To be sure, using drugs on a regular basis is extremely dangerous.

When discussing opioids, it is important to recognize potential problems. In many instances, a person with a disability develops an addiction but switches to less expensive medications that are easy to obtain. To be sure, people with disabilities are often under more financial constraints than others. This means that they hit the streets for less costly alternatives like heroin.

Alcoholism and Disability

Today, alcoholism remains a big problem with people who are challenged with disabilities. Surely, these individuals have numerous physical and emotional frustrations that cause poor moods. This leads to self-medication with alcohol. Scientific studies have shown that half of the people with spinal injuries or brain injuries participate in binge drinking.

How Addiction Causes Disabilities

Although much has been discussed on how individuals with disabilities turn to drugs and alcohol as a means of pain relief, addiction may actually cause a number of disabilities. When a person is under the influence, he or she is likely to experience an injury that brings a disability. For example, alcoholism may lead to drinking and driving, which can cause a car accident and severe injuries. Also, substance misuse increases the symptoms of certain mental disorders. Markedly, there are other damaging effects of addiction as well.

  • Hepatitis often results from long-term alcohol abuse
  • Nerve damage often results from inhalant misuse
  • Lung disease is a result of long-term marijuana abuse

Reasons People with Disabilities Begin Abusing Drugs or Alcohol

To be sure, a number of misuse disorders stem from the struggles to cope with the psychological impact of disabilities. It is easy to turn to drugs and alcohol.

  • A person with a disability may hope to gain social acceptance. In other words, drugs or alcohol become a gateway to connect with friends and to maintain a more normal social life.
  • A person with a disability may use drugs or alcohol as an escape from reality. Life with a disability may bring sadness and loneliness. Drugs and alcohol dull the pain.

Health Concerns Regarding Substance Misuse and Disabilities

Besides obvious health effects, drug and alcohol misuse can cause other difficulties in the life of a person with a disability.

  • Difficulty Getting Medical Attention. In fact, many people with disabilities have mobility problems, which makes it difficult to get from place to place. Misusing drugs or alcohol makes it even more challenging to get to a doctor. Also, studies show that a misuse disorder lowers the likelihood that a patient will follow medical advice.
  • Drug Interactions. Many people with disorders take regular prescription medicines to handle their conditions. To be sure, when drugs or alcohol are involved, terrible interactions may occur. Therefore, there is an increased risk for more physical damage. For instance, a person with rheumatoid arthritis may suffer debilitating liver problems, especially when mixing pain medication with alcohol. Also, alcohol is known to lower a person’s bone density. An overdose is possible as well.
  • Heightened Employment Problems. Many people with disabilities have trouble getting to a job. Physical limitations may make it nearly impossible to travel to work each day. When substance misuse is present, it may repel friends and family who help with transportation and other support issues. It may make it difficult to complete tasks at work as well.

Roadblocks to Recovery

In general, one of the most troubling things that face a person with a disability and a substance misuse disorder is the ability to access treatment. Unfortunately, many rehab facilities are not equipped to deal with these issues. There are other barriers as well. In fact, many doctors do not understand how to deal with a substance misuse disorder and a disability.

To clarify, participating in rehab may be extremely difficult for a person with a disability, especially when he or she is blind or deaf. A mere 27 percent of treatment facilities that deal with opioid addiction have available interpretation services. In other words, many rehab centers are inaccessible to deaf patients.

Enabling a Person with a Disability and a Substance Misuse Disorder

Many times, it is not easy for a friend or a family member to confront an individual with a disability. He or she may feel pity or may fear broaching the subject. Also, some individuals feel that people with disabilities do not have the strength to overcome a substance misuse disorder. This enabling may take the form of covering up the problem or supplying drugs out of guilt. To be sure, this worsens the situation.

Treatment for Alcoholism and Disability

Actually obtaining behavioral treatment when a person has a disability can be very challenging. To repeat, cost, transportation, and accessibility can be nightmares. Uncovering a treatment facility for an individual with a physical disability that meets all requirements can be tricky. 

To be sure, the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs explains that people with mental disabilities require different types of accommodations. These individuals may not have the ability to easily process information. Therefore, it becomes likely that these people become discouraged or try to give up on treatment. In other words, it is essential to find a program that is guided toward helping a person get the most out of therapy within cognitive limits.

At Harmony Place, our Woodland Hills facility is ready to help. It is possible to receive treatment in a place that caters to individual needs and requirements so that long-term sobriety is possible. In fact, our staff tries to make all adjustments easy and to understand each patient’s disability so that the treatment process can be most effective.

Patient Treatment Options

Our facility offers both inpatient and outpatient services. An individual with a dual diagnosis can find help as well. When possible, we assist individuals with disabilities and help them to receive better access to medical care that goes beyond addiction treatment. To explain, our sober living program may help them better manage disabilities within a permanent sober lifestyle.

When a person has a disability and a substance use disorder, it is essential to find a center that offers integrated treatment. In other words, an individual receives traditional therapy with vocational rehab so that motivation and meaning are brought to treatment. 

In the end, this raises the likelihood of successful long-term recovery. Also, the facility must have physical accessibility. For example, it should include mobility aids, audio materials, and braille so that all staff can communicate effectively. To repeat, there is a strong relationship between alcoholism and disability. However, there is hope that recovery from a substance misuse disorder is possible. For more information, contact us today.