Alcoholism And Disability Why Impaired People Drink

Alcoholism and Disability: Why Impaired People Drink

Disability is a broad term that covers impairments, restrictions, and limitations. With that being said, disability refers to structural or functional problems (impairments), participation concerns in life situations (restrictions), and difficulties performing tasks (limitations).

Types of Disabilities

There are six types of handicaps, namely:

1. Physical

The most common disability, it includes the problems of the muscles and bones. It also covers disorders of the circulatory system and respiratory system.

2. Intellectual

As the second most common handicap, intellectual disability may refer to conditions that lead to a low intelligence quotient. As such, affected individuals may find it hard to understand and apply new information. They may have difficulties adapting to new situations as well.

3. Sensory

This third most common disability involves problems with seeing and hearing.

4. Neurological

This type of handicap pertains to problems involving the central and peripheral nervous systems. Examples include autism, attention deficit disorder, and cerebral palsy, to name a few.

5. Cognitive

This type of disability refers to learning obstacles. As such, a cognitively handicapped individual finds it hard to recognize, understand, choose, and perceive things.

Why Disabled People Abuse Alcohol

Binge drinking is a problem in many people, disabled or not. According to the 2016 Disability Annual Statistics Report, as much as 13.2% of persons with disabilities (PWD) drink. Based on the CDC report, if there are 61 million disabled Americans, then there are approximately 8 million individuals with drinking problems.

As to why they do that, the study of Hubbard et al. cites the following reasons:

1. Pain

Physical handicaps usually come with some form of pain. While these individuals may be prescribed with pain relievers, some opt for alcohol instead. After all, some studies suggest that it may help reduce discomfort.

While it may be effective at first, it can lead to more pain in the long run. This is especially true when the person experiences withdrawal. Severe pain may also develop due to peripheral neuropathy, a complication of alcohol abuse. In this condition, nerve damage leads to pain, numbness, and weakness of the hands and feet.

2. Low Self-Esteem

PWDs may have lower self-esteem compared to others. They may be frustrated with their condition, so they don’t feel good about the way they are. This may lead to drinking, so they can feel ‘more confident’ despite their limitations.

3. Mood Disturbances

Mood problems, which may be brought about by frustrations regarding one’s handicap, may lead to alcoholism as well. They may feel depressed and socially isolated because of their impairments. As a result, they end up drinking excessively to keep their disturbing thoughts at bay.

4. Physical Handicap

People who have been handicapped by accidents and other unfortunate events often find themselves drinking more. After all, they were formerly healthy – and now they have to rely on assistive devices, caregivers, and whatnot.

For a brief period, alcohol makes them forget their physical disabilities. However, excessive drinking can affect the brain in such a way that they end up more forgetful than usual.

Alcohol Use May Lead to Disability Too

Alcohol and disability have a two-way relationship. While a handicap may lead to a person to drink, an alcoholic may end up disabled due to excessive drinking. After all, research shows that alcohol abuse is often involved in physical injuries.

According to the World Health Organization, alcohol accounts for 4% of the global disease burden. It also accounts for 1.8 million deaths worldwide, with most of them succumbing to injuries.

Should an alcoholic be lucky enough to escape with his/her life, he/she may potentially end up disabled. More often than not, alcoholics suffer from road traffic injuries that may lead to limb amputation or paralysis. They may also suffer from burns and falls that can result in physical disability as well.

Other alcohol-related accidents such as drownings and poisonings do not only cause physical problems, as they may lead to cognitive disorders as well.

To make matters worse, alcohol abuse often continues after disability. Like other PWDs, these newly-handicapped people end up drinking to forget their pain and frustration. As such, the cycle of alcoholism continues – and it’s often for the worse.

Issues with Alcohol Treatment for the Disabled

While there are many clinics and rehab centers that offer alcoholism treatment, most of them are not equipped to handle PWDs. With that being said, you need to be on the lookout for a rehab facility that can deal with impaired patients.

For one, the center should be disabled-friendly. It should be able to address common problems. According to Alkawai and Alowayyed, these are the usual barriers to effective treatment:

  • Parking concerns. While most facilities in the United States have handicapped parking, facilities that only have street parking may be an issue for those with impairments.
  • Accessibility to facilities.Again, ramps are widely available in American centers. However, there may be some facilities that lack ramps or lifts.
  • Toilet facilities.For inpatient rehab, the drinker will need to stay a minimum of 30 days in the facility. As such, toilets must have bars and other assistive devices that make the restroom easily accessible.

Another issue with rehab treatment is the need for additional professional help. For example, a deaf person will need a signer. A blind individual, on the other hand, might need braille or any other similar device. A physically handicapped person may require a full-time caregiver as well.

There may be other concerns that only the PWD knows for him/herself. With that being said, it’s best to tour the facility before you sign up for rehab services.

Wrapping Up

About 8 million disabled Americans suffer from drinking problems. They may be more motivated to consume alcohol due to multiple concerns, such as pain, low self-esteem, mood disturbances, and physical handicap.

Likewise, alcoholics are more likely to be impaired as well. After all, intoxication can lead to accidents that may result in certain handicaps.

Because of the special needs of PWDs, they should be on the lookout for impairment-friendly facilities. These treatment centers should have nearby parking, ramps, and lifts readily available for use. They should also have signers, caregivers, and other professional personnel on standby. These can make a person’s stay more comfortable. As such, he/she can focus on the more pressing issue at hand: his/her alcoholism problem.


Latest posts by Raychel Ria Agramon, BSN, RN, MPM (see all)

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