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.

minute read

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.


Leave a Reply to Cindy Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

I have read and agree to the conditions outlined in the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy.

  1. I have a 38 yr. old daughter…..she is deaf are there such treatment centers in or around Detroit MI,.
    and accepts medicaid or no insurance?

    1. Hi Teresa. I suggest that you call the helpline you see on the website to talk with a trusted treatment consultant who can hep you find a rehab for your daughter.

    1. Hi Cindy. Call the helpline you see on the website to get in touch with a trusted treatment consultant who can help you find a rehab program that fits your needs.

  2. Hello, I am looking for support for my deaf brother , he is also suffers from some kind of a personality disorder and also takes hormones because he is transgender. He Erik wants to be Ericka. He has had lots of trauma throught out his life . He showed up on my door step and is still here after 4 months. He is a hard worker when he wants to be. He has medicad. He had been doing great not drinking too much, but this morning waking up to him drinking whiskey. I need to know if there are programs for the mental impaired and the deaf close to Seattle Washington.

  3. I’m writing to you from Attorney, T.H’s office in Westminster, Md. We are representing a deaf client who has a 90% deficiency in his hearing; he has a chemical dependency on Heroin. Because of his deafness, he has been unable to get rehabilitation treatment; he very much wants to attend a program. Our client has been in our county Detention Center since January, 2017. I’m having a difficult time finding a rehab center that will take him. Reasons being, out of state, out patient only program, etc. Our client has Medicare Health Insurance and currently receives $600 a month.

    I would appreciate any guidance you can provide, as this is an urgent matter to meet the courts demands.

    Very Truly Yours,

    Legal Assistant

    1. Hi Deanna. Thanks for reaching out. First, I suggest to start your search on SAMHSA’s treatment locator:
      I’ve added some specific information that you gave me such as insurance, area, and special program to narrow down the search. You may do the same to get more appropriate results. Some of the treatment facilities have website, but all have phone number, so you can call them, and ask for their services and options. Then, you may look on the ‘Substance and Alcohol Intervention Services for the Deaf’ website, here:
      Finally, call the helpline you see on our website to get in touch with a trusted treatment consultant who can help you find the best treatment program for your client.

      Hope this helps!

  4. Hello,
    I have a 27 year old deaf son that has an addiction problem. He started using about a year ago. It is quickly getting worse. I need help to find a program that accepts medical and also AMerican Sign Languge. Please let me know if this is something anyone can help me with. We live in Los Angeles.
    Thank you,

    1. Hi Laura. I suggest that you search on SAMHSA’s treatment locator:
      You may add special addiction services like addiction services for the deaf and hard of hearing, insurance, location, sex, etc. Also, call the helpline displayed on the website to get in touch with a trusted treatment consultant who can help you find a suitable treatment program for your son.

  5. Hello, my husband is deaf. With hearing aids he’s more in the range of hard of hearing. He is struggling with alcohol addiction and I’m trying to find help for him in Central Florida. He needs someone who either is fluent in ASL or who can proivide interpreters consistently.

    1. Hi Diane. Call a toll-free Alcohol Helpline on 1-888-675-1820 to find a high-quality alcohol addiction treatment program. This helpline is accessible 24/7 and gives you the chance to speak with trusted treatment consultants who can help you find an alcohol recovery program suited to your husband’s individual needs.

    1. Hi Amy. I suggest that you call the helpline displayed on the website to get in touch with a trusted treatment consultant.

  6. We are seeking an inpatient substance abuse treatment program in New York City or New York State as soon as possible for a client who is deaf. Thank you.

  7. My love of my life is close to giving up she has been to so many treatment centers but needs long term after care living facilities with others like herself that can truly understand what she is going through.Every person in her family I included are severe addicts.She thinks no such place exists and I know personally how hard it is to find the right treatment center that isn’t a joke.please I need information to get her help before it is too late! She is a very special person. We live in New Bern North Carolina. Thank you

  8. Good Evening,
    My husband is an addict and has been seeking help on and off, but it has been hard to find a place that is inclusive for the deaf. I’d like to find a place that is faith based (Christian) and has an inpatient program. We live in South Florida, but it off state is fine. Can you recommend a place?

    1. Hi Carmen. You may call the number you see on the website to speak with a trusted treatment consultant who can help your husband find a treatment program that fits his needs.

  9. Looking to help my grandson use of marijuana ,last 6 months, its seems to be getting worse. He lives in the Jacksonville area near the isd campus.

  10. I am the mother of an 18 year old. My daughter is profoundly deaf and communicates through ASL. She began smoking pot at the age of 13 and was addicted to meth by the age of 16. She has used any and every drug there is that’s out there. She has overdosed on several occasions. We have had her in a youth stabilization program, PCHAD, and AADAC. Due to her being deaf she was offered minimal assistance at these programs as there is not enough funding in place for interpretors. She has depression and has been suicidal and has been cutting herself since she was 12. She has seen psychologists but did not continue for any length of time due to having an interpretor and did not find it helpful. I am in desperate need of help for my daughter. We live in Edmonton Alberta Canada

    1. Hi Brigitte. There is a lot going on for you. I did some research on organizations for deaf people in Canada, here’s the list:
      1. Canadian Hearing Society-
      2. Canadian Organizations for Deaf/Blind People:
      3. Healthy Canadians:
      4. Mental Health Helpline-
      Hope this helps.

  11. My brother is currently undergoing a medical detox for alcoholism. He’s on day 3 and his drs say he is a very severe case. He’s in a hospital in Harrisburg, PA and he’s very frustrated with the language barrier. He’s deaf, communicates via ASL and does not read lips. I’m trying to find an inpatient rehab facility specializing in deaf substance abuse in the PA area. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated. Thank you.

    1. Hi Missy. Click this link to search SAMHSA’s treatment locator. I already constricted the search for PA only, but you can proceed to enter data about your area or living and type of treatment you are searching for. There are separate graphs that allow you to select the type of addiction condition, health insurance, payment options that fit your needs as well as to find addiction treatment for the hearing impaired. I hope this helps:

  12. My deaf sister is physically dependent on prescription pain medication. She is definitely addicted as she does not always take the medicine as prescribed and has drug seeking behavior, visiting the ER to get pain medication when she runs out way too early. She really needs help and I believe she is willing. She has insurance but we aren’t sure what’s available for the deaf community. We live in Maryland, but if her insurance will cover it she could go anyway. Please help us. Please email some information.

  13. My daughter is hard of hearing she knows sign language and reads lips we are trying to find inpatient treatment for her drug addiction. She lives in kent Washington and would like to find a place to start treatment close to here. She would like to find a place that works with the hard of hearing. Are you aware of any in this area ? Thank you

I am ready to call
i Who Answers?