Overcoming addiction of any kind is challenging for anyone. However, for those who are sensory impaired, finding a detox and rehab programme that takes into consideration their disability can prove problematic.
Addictions are traumatic for any individual, but for people with sensory deficits, for example, those who are hearing or visually impaired, this can be particularly overwhelming.
Not only do these people have to face the painful reality of recovering from an addiction, but finding treatments that cater to their individual physical and emotional needs can also prove to be a challenge.
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Whilst research has so far proven inconclusive, it is thought that individuals with disabilities are more likely to turn to substance abuse.
However, the outcome of all research points to a lack of treatment plans tailored to meet the needs of this minority, and the requirement for reliable, proven, evidence-based treatment.
Those who are sensory impaired are faced with numerous physical and emotional barriers to recovery. To defeat these obstacles, it is essential that they have access to treatment programs that recognise and respect their specific needs, which are far different from those of the able-bodied.
Sadly, such individualised treatments are few and far between, and certainly not available on the scale required to meet the needs of this particular group. This leaves them in a position of vulnerability with further obstacles to overcome.
Before deciding upon the best course of rehabilitation for a loved one or yourself, there are a number of points that you should take into consideration.
This includes risk factors applicable to this population group, risks of alcohol or substance misuse, and the resources to make finding a suitable programme that bit easier.
The role of childhood experiences
Certain aspects of alcohol, drug and substance misuse may stem from certain experiences that take place during childhood that are specific to this minority group.
The most obvious of these would be an inability to fully access learning about the dangers of substance misuse within the education setting compared to their able-bodied peers. This is particularly the case where disabled children may be schooled in an inclusive, mainstream school environment.
As certain aspects of the dangers associated with alcohol and drug use may not be fully understood, these children grow into teenagers and young adults with little understanding of the risks and dangers involved in such behaviours that could lead to addiction, and subsequently no coping strategies to deal with situations where they might find themselves at risk of being exploited by others.
Sadly, some of these individuals may have home lives that are unable to provide the necessary engagement or support needed to protect them from abuse later on. A number of studies have concluded that in households where a hearing impaired child has hearing parents, the level of communication is far lower when compared to that of a hearing child.
The Institute for Research, Education & Training in Addiction (IRETA) clearly states:
“Deaf children whose families do not learn to communicate with them are four times more likely to suffer from mental health disorders than those whose families communicate well with them.”
It could also be considered that children who are blind or in some other way visually impaired, may experience very similar obstacles and challenges.
As they grow, these infants could be up against a lack of understanding and sensitivity to their disability. Hearing loss, in particular, is often misunderstood with assumptions being made as to how much an individual can or cannot understand, and a general unwillingness to make suitable adjustments to a setting where hearing becomes increasingly difficult, for example, where there is a high level of background noise.
Such a lack of understanding and unwillingness to adapt can have a negative impact on a child’s confidence and self-esteem. Children with a disability are also at a much higher risk of experiencing bullying.
There is a likelihood that this will inevitably lead to low self-esteem and other mental health disorders which can lead to a higher risk of alcohol, drug or substance abuse as a misguided coping mechanism later in life.
Additional risk factors
Every single person with an addiction do so as a result of events that have taken place in their lives. These can include mental and physical health disorders, socio-economic factors, lack of education and so on.
These issues are often what causes the addiction to manifest and often continue to be a trigger point or risk factor once addiction help has been sought.
In addition to these, below are listed a number of other potential risk factors affecting those with disabilities:
- Chronic pain or other debilitating/degenerative medical condition
- A legitimate means of getting prescription drugs, particularly those for pain which can ultimately be misused
- Lower socioeconomic standing
- Mental or emotional or health issues, including depression – again, conditions which would be treated by prescription medication that could be misused.
- Feeling isolated from society, not fitting in
- Caregivers, friends, loved ones or may enable alcohol or drug abuse, believing it to be helping the individual
- Being unemployed due to their disability
- Poorly educated
- Having been the victim of sexual and/or physical abuse
Those individuals who face situations such as these may be at higher risk of substance misuse or addiction. However, it is important to know that, that being exposed to anyone, or more of these risk factors does not necessarily mean that an individual will develop an addiction problem.
Substance use disorders and the disabled individual
Addiction and substance abuse have a dangerous and negative impact on the life of any individual. For those with disabilities such as hearing or vision impairment, substance misuse disorders can cause a myriad of complications.
These complications include:
- Full involvement and interaction within a rehab programme may hinder success
- Alcohol or drugs may negatively interact with existing medication
- Limited muscle movement and coordination
- Reduced cognitive function
- Low-level involvement of the individual in aspects of self-care
- Isolation, communication, and stress at home
- Poor overall mental and physical health disorders or illnesses may co-exist which also become disabling (i.e. depression or degenerative illness)
- Educational success may be difficult to achieve, leading to low self-esteem
The greater the period of time the addiction goes untreated, the more complex it becomes to treat, and the more damage is likely to be caused.
Additional resources and information in respect of hearing loss can be found at Action on Hearing Loss.
Important considerations to explore for deaf individuals
In order to fully comprehend the way in which a deaf or hearing impaired individual may struggle with treatment, we must first look at the methods used to treat addiction become effective.
Talking therapies and support groups play a large part in treatment, and are often the key components of any treatment plan.
Without adequate support and assistance, this group of individuals will most likely not get the full benefit of such sessions. Communication barriers are a major obstacle to a person not being able to fully partake in individual and group discussions within their therapy sessions. This cuts them off from those essential conversations with both therapists and peers, that provide such a vital part of the recovery process.
Whilst some treatment centres may offer British Sign Language (BSL) interpreters, it is extremely rare that such support would be available to the deaf individual for the whole of their time in treatment.
During the time spent in rehab, it is many of the informal discussions that take place outside of formal therapy sessions, for example during recreational or meal times, where ideas and coping strategies can be shared, helping individuals learn new skills and to feel some form of acceptance within a group.
A deaf or hearing impaired individual who does not have an interpreter, or who is unable to lip-read particularly well, will miss vital points of the conversation and will, therefore, be far less likely to benefit from this support.
For the deaf individual, knowing that you cannot understand the whole conversation is a great source of stress and anxiety, which would further exacerbate their situation.
BSL has its own vocabulary, syntax and idioms and for these reasons, a hearing impaired individual would gain far greater benefit from a treatment programme that is specifically designed to meet their needs.
Factors to consider for the blind
The most obvious consideration would be that of access to a treatment centre. A blind individual could struggle with gaining access to numerous rooms, or buildings on site.
In addition to this important consideration, treatment might be compromised due to their inability to read supporting literature that is offered to those attending support groups or given as homework assignments, or as part of their counselling.
Sadly, the majority of treatment centres do not offer printed material in large print, braille, or audio format. Furthermore, films or other visual aids that form a part of their sessions would also be inaccessible to this disability group.
When considering these issues, we would urge you to research extensively your treatment options when choosing a programme that will meet all your mental and physical needs.
Components of treatment
An individual requiring drug or alcohol treatment will more than likely have the choice of being treated on an inpatient or outpatient basis.
Inpatient programmes offer far more intensive and individualised care plans that many addictions require, whilst outpatient programmes do offer some greater flexibility and access to therapies and counselling.
Whilst resident at a centre, the individual would be granted continued access to engaging, friendly and supportive staff. The most important benefit of being treated on an inpatient basis is that the individual being treated is able to cut ties with any influential friends, triggers or temptations that might cause a relapse.
This distance allows a greater focus on recovery. For the sensory impaired individual who might have ‘self-medicated’ in order to overcome feelings of isolation or loneliness, being resident at a rehab centre means they are never alone. In fact, they will most likely leave the centre having made new, supportive friendships, that they can turn to once they are home.
What does treatment consist of?
Any good treatment programme has several, proven components.
We list these below:
- With certain types of drug abuse, detox may be chemically assisted in order to expel harmful toxins that have accumulated over time within the body.
- There will most likely be individual and group counselling sessions and Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT)
- Dialectical Behavioural Therapy is a relatively new off-shoot of CBT. It helps address issues faced by those with borderline personality disorders and the emotional mood swings they might experience
- Nutritional Education and Support will help ensure a healthy mindset once treatment has finished, putting the individual in a strong, medically fit state to continue to improve, reducing the possibility of relapse
- Relapse Prevention Training looks at the various physical and emotional triggers that have caused the initial addiction, and how best to avoid or overcome these. Once these have been identified, various coping mechanisms and strategies are taught, once more to give the best possible outcome when the individual is discharged from the treatment centre
- Integrated Family Support and Therapy sessions help loved ones and caregivers by giving them an opportunity to discuss their concerns and teaches them how they can best help the individual once they return home
In addition to all of this, once home, the individual is given continued access to the support teams at the centre. This is a valuable lifeline.
Don’t struggle alone
Don’t wait until you or your loved one reach crisis point. If you have a sensory impairment and are facing addiction, our friendly supportive staff can help.
Contact us today to discuss the options that are available, from normal rehab centres to those that can provide individualised treatments that consider your disability and fulfil all your requirements. You can contact us on 0800 140 4690. Alternatively, you may contact us via this website.