Disability And Addiction – The Hidden Risks

Disability And Addiction – The Hidden Risks

People with disabilities have to put up with a lot. They’re denied many opportunities, and must put up with a great deal of societal stigma. However, they’re also vulnerable to one particularly oft overlooked problem – substance abuse. All the negative factors which influence the life of a disabled person often leave them open to addiction in ways which might pass a healthy person by. It’s a problem which seriously needs addressing if we are to improve the lives (and reputations) of the disabled in Cambodia.

Influential Factors

Studies in the United States and elsewhere have identified several societal factors which put someone at increased risk of developing a substance abuse issue. These include emotional abuse, neglect, lack of opportunity, frustration, being bullied, feelings of inadequacy, anxiety issues, and depression. Many disabled people reading this will be beginning to see the problem – many of these issues chime with the life experience of disabled people. Disabled people may well suffer emotional – or even physical – abuse and bullying as a result of their condition. They lack the opportunity to fulfil their ambitions or needs in the way they might like, which may in turn lead to feelings of inadequacy. Anxiety and depression are shockingly common amongst the disabled. However, most disabled people are all too capable of taking addictive substances, and drug dealers know that. It’s not uncommon for a disabled person to try and salve their troubled psyche with drugs or alcohol and, as vulnerable individuals, they’re all too often targeted by unscrupulous dealers. These people know that they’re likely to be good customers too as, due to social isolation, they’re often not able to reach out for peer support and are unable to access inspiration for those trying to get sober.

Addiction In Cambodia

Drug abuse in Cambodia has grown at an exponential rate in recent years. Alcohol is not quite so problematic. Cambodia’s drinking culture does not resemble that of other nations, and Cambodian beverages are drunk in reasonable moderation for the most part. However, there are a significant number of alcoholics, of which many are disabled. Drug addiction is also something of a scourge for the disabled community. Although accurate statistics are hard to come by, if we go by the experience of other nations, it is reasonable to assume that substance abuse rates are proportionally much higher within the disabled community than in other communities. This is, of course, very troubling on a lot of levels.

What Can Be Done?

A big step towards reducing the problem would be raising awareness of the potential for addiction among the disabled community. Disabled people don’t fit our culture’s stereotyped addiction profile – they’re not, typically, the ‘bad lads’ and gangsters we’ve come to associate with substance abuse. This often means that disabled people’s substance abuse problems are missed until it’s too late. Nobody’s looking for it, so nobody sees it. Another major help would be to reduce the vulnerability factors which make the disabled more likely to turn to drink and/or drugs. Improve opportunities, reduce social stigma, enable the disabled and stop them from feeling inadequate. There are plenty of social, cultural, physical and financial things a disabled person can do, the trouble is that many simply lack the opportunity. A happy and fulfilled person is not a person who needs drugs and alcohol to make them feel ‘better’. Finally, for those already under the spell of substances, better diagnostic and recuperative facilities are needed. Given the potential scope of this problem within the disabled community and the specialist care, support, and treatment methods that disabled individuals with addictions may need, it would seem advisable for disability organizations to be trained to deal with these issues. Learning how to do things like spot the signs of addiction, help people to open up about their lifestyle and problems, and obtaining access to the resources and rehabilitation facilities which are needed to bring someone through something as tough as getting clean and sober would help enormously. Above all, the people of the disabled community need a lot more support in order to save them from falling through the cracks, and becoming prey to the addictions which are already haunting so many vulnerable people.

“This is a freelance article by Helen Rupert”

Posted by:
People Living With Disabilities in Cambodia
“Help Disabled People to Help Themself”


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