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Disabilities and Substance Abuse

How does having a disability effect an individual’s ability to get the information needed to properly handle substance abuse for themselves or their loved ones?

 There are are different problems encountered depending on the disability of the individual.  I would like to discuss the barriers particular disabilities need to overcome in order to receive the resources necessary to handle this ever growing problem we face in society.

 The purpose of this discussion is to share, through personal experience or research, things you’ve encountered as an Adult Educator on this topic. Discussing how it was handled or getting feedback on how to handle it through this discussion can help others handle situations in the future. 



Connie C.'s picture

This is a very important discussion, and I thank Michael L for starting it.  We all know how pervasive substance use disorders have become in our society, and have all witnessed the tragic outcomes.  As an educator, I am very familiar with referral agencies, and have contacts in the local recovery community.  When difficult situations arise, I am usually able to direct a student to the correct resource.  Whether they take advantage of the referral is out of my control.  I am sure we have all read the research about "self-medicating" being more prevalent with certain disorders, not to mention the stresses and societal pressures most of our students face.  I think the more we know about community resources, the better equipped we are to assist our students.





MIchael L's picture

Thank you Connie for your input.  Does anyone have any resources on the topic that could be shared with community?  I feel now a days there are so many websites and publications, but what one's have people had success with?

Jeri Gue's picture
One hundred


Thank you for addressing this topic.  Substance abuse is epidemic in Delaware, as I'm sure it is in other states.  It is difficult for any individual to get/understand/act upon resources for substance abuse, whether day treatment or in-patient treatment.  Navigating the intake process and insurance connections (if available) is extremely difficult for those involved.  When an individual also has a disability, this becomes even more of a challenge.  These individuals need a little more "hand-holding" and follow-up than non-disabled individuals, especially those with reading, language, and/or processing disabilities.  Instead of simply making a referral, we may need to be with the student as they make a connection - have them make a call from our facility or program.  Just having the support of a person nearby as they begin the process can be helpful.

I am very interested to hear what others have to say.


Connie C.'s picture

I keep a copy of the AA/NA/Al-Anon schedule in my office, and am well acquainted with the Director of a local club that houses 12-step programs.  These recovery groups are free, anyone can join, and are non-judgmental.  Many communities offer meetings at all hours of the day and at different locations.   I always tell students during our intake process that we have resources if any of them are dealing with a substance use disorder, either themselves or family members.  We all know that it is impossible to succeed in an educational undertaking if one is gripped by active addiction.  Having had personal experience with this disease, I am able to share experiences I have had as well as contacts in the recovery community.  It takes a village!  Those affected are just like us; they are our friends, neighbors, parents, children, and siblings.  

Michael Cruse's picture
One hundred

Michael, Connie, Jeri and others following this thread, 

Firstly, thank you for creating and contributing to this topic.  Many adult educators see the impacts of comorbidity, which is the term for two or more disorders/illnesses experienced by the same person, and its impact on learners in their classes.  According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), "about half of people who experience a mental illness will also experience a substance use disorder at some point in their lives and vice versa".1,2   NIDA has excellent resources to help adult educators teach the science of addiction, and find science-driven solutions to treating addiction.  

I highly recommend anyone struggling to find information and tested resources to contact NIDA for a step-by-step guides about how to know if someone needs treatment, where to find a treatment center in your area, and an addiction specialist.  


Mike Cruse

Disabilities and Equitable Outcomes Moderator