Is An Addiction A Disease or Disability?

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Disability and addiction often go hand in hand.

If you have a mental health disability, then you are twice as likely to suffer from a mental health disorder as someone who does not have one.

Additionally, those with a disability and addiction are less likely to receive treatment.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, if you have an addiction, then you are more likely to suffer from an accidental injury that can lead to disability through the long-term side effects of substance abuse.

What is Disability?

Disabilities are typically thought to be impairments on the human body. What most people do not realize, is that disabilities can also be with the emotions or the mind. Disabilities can be either short-term or long-term, but they can also last for the duration of your life.

Whether your disability is physical, mental, developmental, emotional, behavioral, or social, it can occur at birth or develop at any time in life.

Common disabilities include:

  • Paralysis
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Spina bifida
  • Cerebral palsy
  • Dwarfism
  • Amputation
  • Depression
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Cystic fibrosis
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Deafness
  • Blindness
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Arthritis
  • Muscular dystrophy
  • Developmental disorders
  • Prader-Willi Syndrome
  • Down Syndrome
  • Autism

Can a Disability Lead to Addiction?

Having a disability can easily discourage your happiness. If you feel like your disability is hindering your purpose, you might fall into depression, causing you to abuse substances. When you abuse substances along with having a mental disorder, this is called a dual diagnosis.

These co-occurring mental disorders are common in the United States but, unfortunately, mental health is not talked about as much as it should be. This leads to people struggling with the fact that they might be an outsider, or not be able to obtain certain careers because of their disability.

If you have a disability you are more likely to be unemployed, less likely to have finished high school, and more likely to be a victim of a crime. This is why disabilities can most definitely lead to addiction.

Statistics Regarding Disability and Addiction

  • 16.1% of adults have difficulties physically functioning due to a disability.
  • 39.5 million adults suffer from physical disabilities.
  • 54 million people experience some form of disability.
  • 4.7 million adults have both a substance use disorder and a disability.
  • 7%-26% of individuals with mental disabilities also suffer from addiction.

Prescribed Medication and Addiction

It is very common that people with disabilities will be prescribed medication to help with those disabilities. Unfortunately, there is a huge potential for addiction with many of the medications prescribed for mental illness.

Addiction to Opioids

Opioids are a very common prescription that leads to addiction. Although they are helpful when it comes to relieving pain, they are extremely addictive. If you have a disability, then you are much more likely to abuse opioids, but you have less of a chance of receiving treatment for it.

The huge danger with opioids is that they are addictive and also expensive. Often what ends up happening with disabled persons who become addicted to opioids, is that after a while of using the drug, is that they will switch to a cheaper, similar, drug like heroin.

Addiction That Causes Disability

Although disabilities can often cause addiction, addiction can also cause a disability to develop. When you are under the influence, you have a higher chance of becoming injured, which can cause a disability.

Disability might happen from falling, a car accident, or because addiction worsens the symptoms of mental disorders. Whether this is the worsening of psychological episodes, or putting you at risk for a greater disability.

It is also very possible to suffer from diseases spread through intravenous drug use. This might include HIV or Hepatitis. These can also be spread due to unsafe sex practices as well. Long term abuse can lead to conditions such as:

  • Blindness
  • Exacerbation of mood disorders
  • Nerve damage
  • Lung damage
  • Heart strain

Effects of Addiction


  • Inability to stop using drugs: If you have made a serious attempt to stop using drugs or alcohol, then you may experience withdrawal symptoms and feel unable to stop using.
  • Dealing with problems through drug or alcohol use: People with addiction might feel like they need to take the drug in order to handle personal issues.
  • Obsession: You might become obsessed with a drug and spend all of your time and energy on it.
  • Taking risks: You might begin to take risks that you would not otherwise do if you were not taking the drug.
  • Taking large doses: This is common to feel the effects of drugs or alcohol quickly. This can be dangerous and lead to overdose.


  • Sacrifices: You might begin to feel like the only thing that matters is your addiction. This can lead you to distance from family or friends. This can greatly affect those around you.
  • Being obsessed with your supply: You might spend all of your money on the substance of your choice, even if you do not have a lot of money in general. This might lead you to steal or sacrifice other important things that your family needs.
  • Secrecy: When you have a substance use disorder, you might keep it secret. This can lead you to be lonely in hopes that you can hide it from those you love.
  • Denial: Many people are in denial when they have a problem. You may have been told that you have an addiction and refuse to recognize it.
  • Excess consumption: Alcohol or opiate use disorders can lead you to consume a huge amount of a substance. This can leave you in danger of overdose.
  • Legal issues: Legal issues are a huge problem because you may drive under the influence, or cause public disturbances. You might also steal in order to supply yourself and go to jail due to that.
  • Financial difficulties: Substances are expensive, which can lead you to make sacrifices in order to get your supply.


  • Increasing tolerance: The first sign of physical addiction is the reduction of effects from a substance. This means that you will require more of the substance to obtain the same effect as before.
  • Withdrawal symptoms: When you suffer from addiction, if the levels of the drug get too low in your system, you will experience withdrawal. This means you might suffer from cravings, constipation, diarrhea, trembling, seizures, and odd behavior, including violence.
  • Appetite changes: Some substances can alter your appetite. This can either increase, such as with marijuana, or decrease, such as with cocaine.
  • Insomnia: This is a common symptom of withdrawal, but can also be caused by stimulants.
  • Changes in appearance: You might appear tired, haggard, or simply devoid of personal hygiene. This is because you will be spending all your time and energy doing drugs or drinking.

Get Help For Your Addiction

If you are suffering from a substance use disorder, then you may also be suffering from a disability that you are unaware of.

These underlying disorders need to be diagnosed in order for you to get fully healthy.

If you have questions about treatment, medications, or disability services, at Resurgence Behavioral Health we can help.

We can help you understand which treatment you need, and we can offer free insurance verification for treatment.

Contact us today to get started on your road to recovery.

Addiction Treatment that
Just Works

Individualized treatment programs delivered in a comfortable, relaxed setting promote healing in your recovery journey.