Studies have shown that if you’re disabled, you are at a higher risk of drug and alcohol abuse than the general population. According to the Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Disability, 10 percent of the population has problems with alcohol and 5 percent have problems with drugs. Unfortunately, people with disabilities have drug and alcohol issues as much as four times the rate of the general population. That number increases to about 50 percent of severely disabled people, such as those who have spinal cord or traumatic brain injuries, amputations or mental illnesses.
There are a variety of factors that contribute to this:
- Because many disabled people take pain medications and relaxants, they are more readily available. Using them on a regular and prolonged basis also increases the possibility of dependence or misuse.
- Disabled people are often limited in their mobility, and therefore more likely to turn to medications for pain relief, lessening the feelings of social isolation or depression.
- There’s a higher probability that those around a disabled person such as a caregiver or a family member may be a medication enabler. Doctors routinely overprescribe pain medications and family members, often times subconsciously or through lack of education, overmedicate a disabled family member.
Healthy individuals face a string of challenges trying to kick substance abuse, but for the disabled, the stakes are raised even more. Prolonged exposure to alcohol and drugs can have severe health consequences including internal organ damage, malnutrition, and increased likelihood of bone fractures and infections, among other maladies.