Addiction Treatment for People with Disabilities
July is Disability Pride Month, which is an international occasion to illuminate the experiences and challenges of people with disabilities, celebrate accomplishments, and facilitate conversations around potential improvements to accessibility and communication.
One area that deserves special focus is addiction and addiction treatment for people with disabilities. Research shows that disabled people are at a much higher risk for struggling with substance misuse. Around 50% of people with disabilities abuse drugs or alcohol (compared to around 10% of the general population). People with mobility disabilities are between an estimated 2 and 4 times more likely to misuse substances than non-disabled people.
There are many potential reasons for the higher rate of substance use problems among disabled people. These include:
- Friends and family may be misguided into letting their loved one “have their vices,” ignoring the serious problems and health dangers associated with substance misuse.
- Self-medicating. Drugs and alcohol may provide temporary relief for untreated pain or distress but create new problems or exacerbate existing conditions in the long run.
- Lack of preventative services. Patients may not be sufficiently educated on the dangers of misusing prescription medications, leading them to form a problematic pattern of misuse.
There are also several significant barriers to getting treatment. In addition to the obstacles faced by all of the general population, people with disabilities that require addiction treatment have historically had to contend with:
- Facilities lacking proper accommodations (e.g., ramps, elevators, sensory navigational features, etc.).
- Staff that may be untrained in caring for disabled people.
- Insensitivity among staff and peers and the stigma surrounding physical and cognitive disabilities.
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) that was enacted in 1990, and was further updated in 2010, making significant improvements in ensuring healthcare facilities (including rehab and detox centers) become more accessible. Such changes include mandating these facilities provide the following and more:
- Modifications of policies for people with disabilities (e.g., allowing service dogs, allowing staff to complete a patient’s paperwork in certain instances, etc.).
- Qualified readers for blind patients or those with low vision.
- Accessible parking spaces, doors with lever handles, clear pathways of travel, and wheelchair-accessible bathrooms, etc.
It’s important that the care provided in an addiction center not only makes the facility more accessible for patients with disabilities but also empowers patients with methods of becoming more self-reliant, as self-confidence is an important part of maintaining long-term sobriety.
While advancements have been made in recent years, the high rate of addiction and the low rate of participation in rehabilitation treatment centers among disabled people is proof that more improvements are needed to make treatment more accessible and effective for this demographic.
If you or a loved one is struggling with addiction, please reach out to an admissions navigator at to learn about care and treatment options at Greenhouse Treatment Center. Greenhouse has multiple levels of care, several specialized treatment tracks, and an experienced staff that is equipped to form an individualized rehabilitation plan tailored to you or your loved one.