Disabilities that Complicate Substance Abuse Treatment and How to Overcome Them Guest author Patrick Bailey

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The views expressed here are for the author and do not represent any agency or organization.

 

The last thing a person recovering from alcohol addiction needs is yet another obstacle to getting back to the life they know and love. Well-managed inpatient drug and alcohol treatment centers should ensure a physical disability does not impede full recovery.

Disabilities and Substance Abuse

People who suffer from physical disabilities have a higher risk of alcohol and drug abuse. The National Rehabilitation Information Center (NARIC) shows that about half of Americans who suffer from a disability are also likely to suffer from substance abuse (co-occurring disorders or dual diagnosis). That’s compared to 10% of the general public.

Disabled World reports that those with mobility issues—disabilities like amputated limbs, spinal cord injuries, orthopedic disability, arthritis, deafness, vision impairment, or multiple sclerosis—are two to four times more likely to abuse drugs or alcohol.

Yet an anonymous survey reveals that of those suffering from a spinal cord injury or traumatic brain injury (TBI) and also seeking addiction treatment, about half are refused admission to inpatient drug and alcohol treatment centers.

A report from the American Association on Health and Disability (AAHD) shows that physical accessibility negatively impacts the success of treatment for those with disabilities every day.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), one in five American adults has a disability. Most worrisome for those in an inpatient facility are mobility and visual or auditory challenges that prevent them from taking full advantage of the treatment offered them.

Alcohol and drug abuse can complicate treatment for the physically disabled by interfering with therapy, rehabilitation, counseling sessions, and medications.

Overcoming Barriers to Treatment

For this reason, a physically accessible treatment center is essential to those who have both physical limitations and addiction challenges.

Group therapy and support groups can dispel social isolation and offer a healing environment for both those who suffer from addiction and their families. However, an additional layer of support is required for those with an additional disability.

Inpatient drug and alcohol treatment centers can offset this by removing or altering potential barriers to their disabled clients.

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires that all private accommodations and commercial facilities that are not residential facilities remove barriers to communication and access that would negatively affect individuals who are disabled.

For this reason and others, a viable treatment facility must accommodate those who are disabled, ensuring they have complete access to the facility.

Making Rehab Accessible

Three factors that can affect a person’s ability to function:

  • A person’s mental, emotional, and/or physical state doesn’t function properly. This can include hearing or memory loss.
  • Activity limitations. Inability to carry out normal tasks.
  • Participation restrictions. A person who cannot participate fully, or not at all, in daily life activities because of their limits. This impacts the way the individual engages in work, social, recreational, or health-related activities that are critical for their health and well-being.

Some of the modifications needed for the disabled include:

  • Ramps and elevators that offer mobility-specific features.
  • Wider doors and hallways for those in wheelchairs or other mobility devices.
  • Power-assisted doors.
  • Even, slip-proof floors.
  • Prominently displayed braille and other sensory navigational features.
  • TTY options on phones for the hearing impaired.

Other Physical Disabilities

Physical disabilities are not confined to one’s ability to walk without aid. They may result from a birth defect, an accident, a disease, or age. Anything that prevents or diminishes a person’s ability to engage in social activities is a disability

Physical disability includes chronic health conditions that prevent a person from participating fully in their day-to-day life. This includes a variety of autoimmune diseases. Some diseases can become a secondary disability that must be considered in one’s drug or alcohol rehab.

Examples include:

  • Asthma
  • Allergies (environmental and food)
  • Crohn’s disease
  • Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
  • Ulcerative colitis
  • Diabetes
  • Migraine headaches
  • Cerebral palsy (CP)
  • Cystic fibrosis
  • Epilepsy
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Spina bifida
  • Spinal cord injuries
  • Loss of a limb
  • Traumatic brain injury
  • Cancer
  • Lupus
  • Sickle cell anemia

Learning Disabilities

The best inpatient drug and alcohol treatment centers also make accommodations for clients with learning, sensory, and mental disorders.

A learning disability alters the way a person can listen, speak, read, spell, and/or think. Such a disability impedes a person’s ability to process, recall, and/or express information.

Clients with memory problems often have trouble communicating and have a hard time performing school or job-related tasks.

Chronic health conditions such as physical disabilities are risk factors on their own. Add to that a substance abuse problem and removing as many barriers as possible is essential.