Addiction as a Disability

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

When people think of disability, what’s the first thing that comes to mind? Someone with a white cane… a hearing aid… a limp? How about none of the above? What if someone has no visibly defining characteristics of having a disability? Invisible disabilities are working their way into the public consciousness. A disability is now something that can be seen, observed, communicated and/or yes, even felt. More specifically, addiction, as a permanent invisible disability, is part of the disability definition.

We at Champions define a disability as any barrier which restricts the ability to perform one or more areas of daily living. Addictions definitely fit within this description. 

Addictions are strong appetites. Addicts are people who have a strong appetite. Appetites generate desires, and the satisfaction of these desires generally provides pleasure. A drug addict has strong appetites for some drug, and, indeed, a person with a strong appetite for Internet use is an Internet addict.”  - Relating Addiction to Disease, Disability, Autonomy, and the Good Life: Bennett FoddyJulian Savulescu

Some hold the misconception that when an individual is ‘clean, sober, or controls their addiction’, there are no longer restrictions on life. In fact, an addiction has permanent effects on each individual. Through support the addiction doesn’t disappear, but rather is controlled. That control can only be maintained with different accommodations.  

Someone living with an addiction to alcohol may need to accommodate by not exposing themselves to alcohol. This may prevent them from eating in certain restaurants and therefore restricts one or more areas of daily life. Similarly, a work addict may need to accommodate by having strict behaviors and limitations between their work and personal lives. This may be in the form of rituals to transfer attention from home to work, or segregating clothing to limit work and personal attire.

Although it may be highly stigmatized, perceived by some as temporary, or dismissed all together, don’t be mistaken, addiction is a disability. Although an addict my not be giving in to their appetite, the effects the appetite has, are permanent and constant. 


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