Addiction treatment for the deaf

A review of addiction treatment available for deaf and hard of hearing individuals. Plus, a section for your questions about addiction treatment at the end.

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Studies have shown that disabled individuals are more likely to abuse drugs and alcohol. This holds true for deaf and hard of hearing individuals as well. While part of this can be attributed to the stresses of living with such a disability, instances of substance abuse may also be higher in the deaf community because they may not have access to suitable substance abuse prevention programs.

So, where can you find addiction treatment if you are hard of hearing?  We review addiction treatment programs for the deaf, and invite your questions about treatment at the end.

The deaf and addiction treatment

Communicating with individuals who aren’t hearing impaired can be frustrating; addiction treatment is no exception. Unfortunately, although a higher percentage of deaf individuals suffer from substance abuse disorders, they are also much less likely to seek treatment. This special population only has a handful of options when considering addiction treatment.  This includes:

American Sign Language (ASL) interpreter for traditional treatment – The right ASL interpreter is worth their weight in gold. An interpreter can be used during traditional addiction treatment, but this is not often a viable solution. First, an interpreter may not always be available when needed during treatment. Needing an interpreter may also make a deaf person feel like an outcast or hindrance during residential or group treatment, making them less likely to seek or continue treatment.

Addiction treatment specifically for the hearing impaired – This is probably one of the best addiction treatment options anyone hard of hearing. These types of programs use visual communication methods for treatment. This can include videos and literature. ASL proficient addiction specialists and addiction specialists who are sympathetic to the needs of the hearing impaired will also be available at these types of treatment programs. Unfortunately, addiction treatment specifically for the hearing impaired can be difficult to find for some, as it’s not available in all areas of the country.

Deaf drug addiction treatment

Addiction treatment for the hearing impaired obviously requires special services, particularly alternative communication methods. Deaf drug addiction treatment, though, generally includes the same basic steps and components as traditional drug addiction treatment, starting with an assessment.  The basic steps to any quality addiction treatment program are:

STEP 1: Assessment

Before a drug addiction treatment program can be started, a deaf person must undergo an evaluation and assessment. During this first step, he or she will be evaluated by an experienced addiction specialist, preferably one that is fluent in ASL.  Addiction specialists include licensed psychologists, medical doctors, or psychiatrists.  After assessment, specialists can create a recommended plan for treatment.

STEP 2: Detox

Addicted individuals are often encouraged to go through a detox program prior to entering a treatment program. This step greatly reduced the chances of a relapse, and also allows medical professionals to supervise them during the withdrawal process. In many cases, medical professionals may be able to administer medication in order to relieve uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms.

STEP 3: Addiction treatment

Addiction treatment includes behavioral, psychological, and pharmaceutical therapies.  Each is provided as needed as part of an individual addiction treatment plan.  The actual drug addiction treatment is often the hardest part for addicted individuals. It’s a long difficult process, and not being able to communicate well makes this even harder. Deaf individuals must find an addiction treatment program that’s specifically designed for the hearing impaired. Not only do these programs typically use visual communication methods, such as ASL, but they also enable individuals to be surrounded by their peers, who understand their point of view.

STEP 4: Treatment aftercare

Support and aftercare is an imperative part of deaf drug addiction treatment. Without a strong support system and continued therapy after treatment, a deaf person is much more likely to relapse and continue using drugs or drinking. Deaf drug addiction treatment aftercare generally involves weekly therapy sessions and possibly a stay in a halfway house.

Deaf addiction treatment barriers

Not surprisingly, deaf individuals face a number of addiction treatment barriers. The biggest addiction treatment for the hearing impaired is the feeling of being unable to effectively communicate with others. The deaf often rely on visual communication, and most traditional addiction treatment facilities are unable to accommodate this need. Common deaf addiction treatment barriers are listed below.

  • Attitude and perceived stigma surrounding addiction treatment
  • Career or family responsibilities
  • Communication problems when looking for treatment
  • Financial difficulties and lack of insurance
  • Inability to find addiction treatment that caters to the hearing impaired

Addicted deaf individuals

Where can you go to find addiction treatment?  Common starting points include:

1. Your doctor. The most common place that deaf individuals can turn to is their own doctors. Most medical doctors and mental health professionals are able to diagnose substance abuse disorders. They can also typically help them find appropriate treatment.

2. State health organizations or disability offices. Organizations that cater to deaf and other individuals with disabilities are also a good place for hearing impaired individuals to turn to when they need addiction treatment. These organizations can often find addicted deaf individuals suitable treatment. The same is true for state health organizations and disability offices.

3. SAMHSA – The Substance Abuse and mental Health Services Administration website also has a substance abuse treatment facility locator that can be used to find treatment programs. After entering the location, addicted deaf individuals can filter the search results to only facilities offering assistance for the hearing impaired.

Deaf addiction questions

If you or a loved one is hearing impaired and in need of addiction treatment, we’re here to help. Simply leave your comments or questions on the comments section below. We’ll get back to as soon as possible with our reply and will help point you in the right direction.

Reference Sources: MNCD Deaf: Providing Substance Abuse Treatment to Deaf and Hard of Hearing Clients
NIH: Videos Help Treat Deaf People
OASAS: General Information
U.S.D. Health & Human Services
SAMHSA: Find Facilities Near You
About the author
Lee Weber is a published author, medical writer, and woman in long-term recovery from addiction. Her latest book, The Definitive Guide to Addiction Interventions is set to reach university bookstores in early 2019.
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