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the effects alcohol on a disability

Alcohol and Drug Counselling for people with a disability

Disability and Substance Misuse

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Andrew has worked with many people with a disability during his time at the Federation for Disabled People counselling service with a wide range of conditions that have an impact on their lives. Many conditions are invisible to the other causing huge frustration and feeling the need to justify the everyday difficulties they face can be exhausting in its self. Asking for understanding and even help becomes repetitive and tiring so much so it becomes easier to withdraw and avoid certain situations or use a substance to manage them.

Living in pain can be such a hard existence and sometimes the prescribed medication just does not provide the necessary relief, therefore, using alcohol or drugs can be one way of gaining much needed respite.


There are circumstances in life NHS mistakes, being in a relationship, bringing children, being in work, elderly parents, being on your own where substances can be felt to be helpful.

He doesn’t  advocate 'no use' that may not be necessary but to gain insight into the areas of your life that could be managed differently leaving you with choices. Ultimately it's about your overall health and this is the area in which Andrew works


If you are struggling with alcohol or drug misuse or know someone who would benefit from talking to someone contact Andrew

Living with a Disability increases risk for substance abuse

Living with a Disability increases risk for substance abuse

Disabilities are often at least one of the following: permanent, irreversible, life-changing or life-shortening. People are frequently dealing with a physical disability and mental health issues (eg depression or Chronic Fatigue Syndrome) or both. As well as an inability to work, meet their own self-care needs, look after a family or contribute to society in a meaningful way.

Following are several potential reasons that living with a disability can increase the risk for substance abuse and addiction:


  • The disability comes from a head injury or affects cognitive ability. Individuals who have experienced a reduction in their ability to think clearly don’t always recognise that abusing substances is dangerous. They also may not be able to recognise the problem if they already have one. Furthermore, some individuals with traumatic brain injury, in particular, believe the use of alcohol will improve their ability to interact socially.

  • The disability is a mental health disorder. Disability is a word often connected to physical impairment, but psychiatric conditions can also seriously hamper a person’s ability to function. As a result, the person is more vulnerable to using substances in a desperate attempt to alleviate troubling symptoms, such as insomnia or low energy, and numb painful emotions.

  • The disabled person’s loved ones act as enablers. Sometimes family and friends unintentionally enable substance abusers. For instance, a spouse who feels badly about a partner’s serious injury may be reluctant to say “no” when asked to run to the shop for a bottle of whisky. Other's simply ignored the use of alcohol or drugs, telling themselves that the person has had a hard enough time living with the disability – why shouldn’t he or she be able to enjoy smoking a few joints or drinking a few beers?

  • Substances can be used to self-medicate emotions or symptoms. The challenges of living with a disability are, at times, overwhelming. Some disabled individuals turn to alcohol or drug use in the belief it will relieve the pain of negative emotions, such as anger, frustration, sadness, or guilt. Furthermore, many substances numb physical symptoms as well. For example, people with chronic jaw or facial pain or arthritis can use alcohol in an attempt to relieve the pain.

  • A person with a disability may not have access to proper treatment. Physical disabilities and mental health conditions, such as impaired visions or severe depression, leave some individuals essentially trapped in their homes. The logistics of living with the disability prevent them from receiving regular medical care that would otherwise provide education or screening for substance abuse, followed by the necessary treatment.

  • Some experience a lack of social support. Many individuals who become disabled end up losing much, if not all, of the social support they had prior to their disability. Their condition and, perhaps, the stigma attached to it, keep friends and family away. This social isolation potentially leads to the loss of other sources of support as well, including that of former co-workers, neighbours, and even fellow church members. The loss of much-needed emotional support and sense of connection can make them very vulnerable to abusing alcohol or drugs.


Dangers of Substance Abuse for Those with a Disability


Whenever substance abuse and addiction go untreated, there are inevitable consequences, including:

  • Drug and alcohol abuse hampers proper medical care. Many disabling conditions require ongoing treatment. Individuals who are abusing substances are less likely to comply with medical advice regarding their disability. For instance, they may miss physical therapy appointments or neglect to take medication that requires adherence to a strict schedule. Unfortunately, not adhering to treatment can make their condition worse, creating even more problems for them.

  • Many substances interfere with prescription medications. Another danger involves the way substances, especially alcohol, interact with certain medications. For example, the combination of alcohol and certain antidepressants can impair a person’s alertness and ability to think clearly. Mixing opioid pain medications with alcohol is also extremely dangerous. When painkillers like oxycodone, hydrocodone, and codeine interact with alcohol, their sedating effect is intensified. This can cause respiration to become dangerously slow.

  • Drug or alcohol abuse worsens some conditions. For instance, a person with a spinal cord injury is already more vulnerable to chronic bladder infections. Alcohol use further irritates and inflames the bladder, as well as interferes with certain medications used to treat infections. Likewise, many substances impair coordination, making relatively normal movement even more difficult — if not impossible — in someone already hampered by mobility challenges.

  • Substance abuse itself creates additional problems. Living with a disability on its own is challenging. For example, depending on the severity of the condition, a person could have trouble finding work or staying employed. Alcohol and drug abuse compound the problem by further limiting physical and cognitive abilities. Getting drunk or high often results in tardiness, absenteeism and reduced productivity, any of which can lead to termination


Dangers of substance misuse
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