Did you know that individuals with physical and cognitive disabilities are at a higher risk of developing substance dependence? If you support a loved one who suffers from chronic disabilities and addiction, we’ve gathered some information you need to know about both conditions.
What Are Chronic Disabilities?
A “disability” refers to a physical or mental impairment that substantially disrupts key life functions. People with disabilities often need support from family and friends. Chronic disabilities include a few common conditions, including chronic pain, movement disorders, and learning or cognitive disabilities.
These conditions have various effects, though each produces a negative and lasting impact on a person’s health. Chronic pain is when pain signals in the body persist for longer than 12 weeks. Injuries and illnesses can cause it. Movement disorders, such as arthritis and Parkinson’s disease, are characterized by stiffness, slowness, shaking, and falling. Learning disabilities include auditory processing disorder, dyslexia, dysgraphia, dyscalculia, language processing disorder, and ADHD. Most of these disorders are caused by chemical deficiencies in the brain.
How Can Chronic Disabilities Lead to Substance Addiction?
People with chronic disabilities may develop substance dependence on medications prescribed for pain relief. Another common risk factor is low self-esteem associated with having chronic disabilities. Low self-esteem is a well-known factor in developing addictions.
For example, the prevalence of opioid medications as painkillers have led to an opioid addiction epidemic among people with chronic pain. Short-term use of opioid prescriptions can help people manage their pain. However, long-term use of painkillers can lead to addiction.
People with cognitive disabilities may have low self-esteem and persistent depression. Some use substances as a way to self-soothe or to cope with isolation and loneliness. Other risk factors for substance abuse found in people with these conditions include impulsivity and loss of employment opportunities.
Common Barriers to Treatment
If you are supporting a loved one with chronic disabilities who is also dealing with substance addiction, understand that some common barriers keep them from seeking treatment. These barriers can be psychological, social, environmental, or economic.
For example, some treatment facilities may have inaccessible parking or facilities that don’t have the expertise or infrastructure to care for people with chronic disabilities properly. The use of non-inclusive language centering around ableism can also send an unwelcoming signal. Some facility policies require that people can evacuate unassisted in the event of an emergency, and not all individuals with chronic disabilities fit this bill.
Not every addiction recovery staff is trained to work with people suffering from chronic disabilities. Some facilities may not have inclusive technologies or procedural standards. These factors all add up to the need for substantial research to find an appropriate treatment center for your loved one. You may also need to be prepared to assist in communication between your loved one and health professionals.
Many individuals with chronic disabilities are unable to work or work jobs that would provide the necessary means to attend a quality treatment program. Money can be a significant barrier to treatment. Your loved one may need your help determining options for financial aid to pay for a recovery program.
Choosing the Right Treatment Program
To support your loved one, you need to find a treatment center that uses a specialized assessment toolkit to screen individuals for chronic disabilities. This facility also needs recovery experts and health professionals with expertise in disabilities. It is also helpful if the staff has training on providing integrated treatment.
A good treatment center must have the capability to provide dual diagnosis care. Because disability and addiction influence each other, dual diagnosis treats both conditions simultaneously. Although chronic disabilities can’t always be entirely cured, health professionals can at least stop the reinforcing cycle of co-morbidity.
What Kind of Treatments Work?
A general principle of care is that your loved one needs and deserves individualized treatment planning and care. Even people with the same category of chronic disabilities and addiction have unique needs. Accessibility and treatment methods need to be tailored to these individual differences.
Take cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), for example. Therapists specializing in CBT have significant expertise in recovery and mental health areas. However, not all of them may be equipped to treat an individual with chronic disabilities effectively. So do some research before helping your loved one choose the right therapist.
Trauma-informed care is often essential when treating people with chronic disabilities who are also recovering from substance addiction. Health professionals need to provide specialized and integrated services that consider the impact of traumatic events, especially as they relate to the individual’s condition.
How to Care for a Loved One in Recovery at Home
If your loved one has completed addiction treatment and achieved sobriety, that is something to celebrate! However, this is only the beginning of a long journey. Apart from removing substances and triggers from home, you should strive to maintain a stress-free environment.
Stress management for your loved one and yourself is critical for relapse prevention. Try to implement a routine and healthy habits similar to those used in the treatment facility. Make sure they attend 12-Step group meetings. Encourage your loved one to practice relaxation techniques, such as mindfulness meditation, journaling, and other holistic healing methods. Caring for someone with chronic disabilities and substance use disorder can be exhausting. To avoid burnout, you may need to find a support group.
Disability and addiction may become a vicious cycle. On the one hand, people with chronic disabilities may resort to substances to self-medicate or self-soothe. On the other, addiction can become a significant contributing factor in the development of many disabilities. Substance addiction also frequently worsens the symptoms of many mental and intellectual disorders, leading to more severe episodes and greater disability. We know how hard it can be to care for someone with both disorders. Laguna Shores Recovery has a team of experts who provide dual diagnosis and compassionate care for people with disabilities. We will support you and your family on this long journey. Early intervention is key, and empowerment starts here. Call us today at (866) 774-1532.