Are Alcohol Cessation Programs Able to Help People with Physical Disabilities?

According to a study published by the U.S. Census Bureau, more than 34 million people in America have a functional disability. Of those, over 24 million have a severe disability that significantly impacts their day-to-day life. What’s more, many of these same individuals are also struggling with a substance use disorder. To further put this into perspective, studies show that those with a disability are 2 to 4 times more likely to abuse drugs or alcohol than those who are not disabled. Also worth noting, those who are physically disabled are more likely to struggle with a co-occurring disorder. For those who are not familiar with co-occurring disorders, it refers to a condition whereby an individual is struggling with an existing mental illness that is made worse by a substance abuse problem.


In discussing disabilities and addiction in America, it is worth pointing out that some disabilities are more likely to lead to addiction than others. According to a study published by the Christopher and Diana Reeve Foundation Paralysis Resource Center, the type of disabilities most correlated with addiction include the following:

  • Traumatic brain injury
  • Spinal cord injury
  • Hearing loss
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Arthritis
  • Vision loss
  • Degenerative diseases

It is also worth noting that individuals who are disabled as a result of having one or more limbs amputated are more likely to abuse drugs or alcohol, according to the same study.


Thanks to the passing of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, all organizations, including those that provide substance abuse treatment services, must make their facilities accessible to those who are wheelchair-bound or have other physical disabilities. It should be noted that the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration maintains a comprehensive list of these facilities, which makes it easier for those who are ready to put substance abuse behind them to find one in their area. As far as treatments are concerned, those with disabilities will have access to many of the same services and programs that are available to those who are not disabled, such as medication-assisted detox, addiction counseling, and support groups.


While rehab facilities in America can help individuals with physical disabilities overcome addiction, some of them might not be equipped to help those with disabilities that prevent them from absorbing and processing the information needed to help them overcome their addiction. According to a study published by the American Association on Health and Disability, more than half of the rehab facilities in America reported turning away individuals with traumatic brain and spinal cord injuries. Many of these same facilities also had to turn away those with hearing or vision impairments as well. However, in most cases, they were referred to other facilities that had specialized programs and staff trained to address their unique needs.


For many people, especially those with developmental disabilities, overcoming addiction can be exceptionally challenging. The same applies to those who are struggling with a co-occurring disorder. And unfortunately, some rehab facilities are not equipped to take on these challenges. For example, individuals with co-occurring disorders may need access to different forms of behavioral therapy to help them resolve the psychological aspect of their addiction. And some facilities are very limited in this regard. That said, individuals with co-occurring disorders will want to seek treatment at a specialized facility that offers the following types of behavioral therapy:

  • Motivational interviewing
  • Contingency management
  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy

Individuals with developmental disabilities often benefit from seeking treatments at rehab facilities that have staff and specialized programs that provide the following:

Simplified presentations and resource materials – Studies show that when addiction recovery information is presented in a simplified manner, it is easier for those with developmental disabilities to absorb, process, and ultimately apply what they have learned to their own lives.

Variety – Individuals with developmental disabilities often benefit from receiving information in a variety of forms. Studies show that those who receive addiction recovery information in a visual, auditory, and tactile format are far more likely to complete rehab and maintain long-term sobriety.

Comprehension checks – This approach to treatment entails routinely following up with individuals who are going through rehab to ensure they are keeping track of the information provided to them.

While there are many other strategies used to help individuals with developmental disabilities overcome addiction, those detailed in this article are among the most common.


In summary, there is no shortage of traditional and specialized rehab programs available to those with disabilities who are ready to end their relationship with drugs or alcohol. To learn more about these programs or to find a rehab facility in your area, consider speaking with one of our representatives today at 772-266-5320.

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