Can I Attend Rehab for Substance Abuse if I’m Physically Disabled?

While it is rarely ever discussed, many individuals who are struggling with a physical disability are also struggling with a drug or alcohol addiction as well. To further illustrate this point, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that more than 54 million Americans have a disability of some kind. Of those, 4.7 million are also struggling with a substance abuse disorder or a co-occurring disorder, a condition characterized by suffering from a mental illness coupled with a comorbid substance abuse problem. Fortunately, the passing of the Americans with Disabilities Act in 1990, a federal law that prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities, ensure that those with a substance abuse problem who also have a disability will not be turned away when seeking help at any rehab facility in America.


When it comes to drugs or alcohol, several studies show that those with physical disabilities are 2 to 4 times more likely to develop a substance use disorder compared to those without a disability. And the disparities do not end there as those with physical disabilities are far more likely to be unemployed and live in poverty. They are also more likely to be the victims of crime and be marginalized by society.

There is also something to be said about the psychological impact that being disabled can have on an individual. Along with feeling like society has turned their collective backs on them, many individuals with disabilities have expressed frustration with not receiving benefits that they need and the inability to engage in the same activities as those who are able-bodied. Not surprisingly, all of these factors have contributed to a high substance abuse rate among those who are disabled in America.


Generally speaking, most people assume that those with a disability are either confined to a wheelchair or struggling with a mental health disorder. However, that is not always the case as disabilities can take on many forms, some of which include

  • Deafness
  • Being legally blind
  • Autism
  • Dwarfism
  • Amputations
  • Arthritis
  • Spina bifida
  • Muscular dystrophy

Of course, there are many other types of disabilities; however, the ones detailed in this list represent the ones that are commonly associated with substance abuse.


Studies show that those with disabilities often choose prescription-based opioids as their substance of choice. These medications, commonly prescribed to disabled individuals struggling with chronic pain, can give way to a severe addiction even when being taken as prescribed. To make matters worse, once an individual is no longer able to receive a prescription for opioids from a licensed physician, they will usually turn to heroin, an even more powerful street-level opioid, to achieve a similar high.


Coming in for a close second in terms of commonly abused substances among those who are disabled is alcohol. Individuals who are disabled will often drink excessively to self-medicate, and in doing so, most of them will go on to develop a long-term alcohol use disorder. That being said, alcohol abuse is particularly high among those with disabilities stemming from spinal, orthopedic, and traumatic brain injuries.


While most of this article has focused on how disabilities can lead to addiction, it also works the other way around as well in that addiction can also be the cause of one’s disability. It should come as no surprise that alcohol plays a role in a large percentage of traffic accidents and bodily injuries; however, drug abuse can have similar consequences. Beyond that, substance abuse of any kind can intensify mental health disorders in those who are already dealing with them. It is also worth noting that the risk of developing HIV, a virus that damages the immune system and that can lead to AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome), is higher among those who abuse drugs and alcohol. And yes, diseases that can compromise the immune system are considered disabilities.


It is entirely possible for those who have a disability and struggling with addiction to receive addiction recovery treatments at any licensed rehab facility in America. And based on current statistical data, many disabled individuals can stand to benefit from these treatments. If any of this resonates with you and you’re ready to put addiction behind you and regain control over your life, consider speaking with one of our compassionate and knowledgeable addiction specialists today at 833-762-3739.