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Substance Abuse and the Deaf:

Also see:  Substance Abuse within the Deaf and Hard of Hearing Community

Wayne Harvel

Deaf and Substance Abuse

Right now, I work as a drug and alcohol counselor and I love what I do. I never really understood much about substance abuse until I started going to school and learning more about it. I was encouraged to continue my education further then just chemical dependency studies and so I am continuing my education until hopefully one day I complete graduate school. As I took general education classes, I tried my best to relate the material to counseling and substance abuse treatment. I have been able to do that to the most part including even classes like Greece history and statistics. However, I knew eventually that I would have to take a second language class to graduate from Sac State. I decided to take ASL because I believe in my own mind it would be easier for me to take then taking Spanish. I never knew how I could tie ASL into substance abuse treatment however; I realize that there is a need for treatment programs and counselors for the deaf communities.
In California, there is a need in certain counties for residential programs for either deaf interpreters or counselors to help in substance abuse treatment. Edward Rios stated that if had not been for Silverlake Ranch, he probably would be dead from his substance abuse problem (Kelly, 1998). Working with people with substance abuse problems, I see that even people without hearing problems have a hard time getting treatment and I can imagine it must be even harder for someone who is also deaf to find treatment not only for their addiction but also be able to deaf support. Residential treatment is a big factor in helping people get clean and sober and another factor that goes a long with residential is transitional living. In Baltimore City, the city has a big problem because many of the deaf clients are unable to find transitional living once they are done with residential. They have a hard time staying clean and end up relapsing after a few months because there is not a big support network for the deaf community especially when it comes to substance abuse and helping them stay clean (Pash, 2005).

In New York and New Jersey, the cities are trying ways to help with the problems facing the deaf population when it comes to substance abuse. They have came up with new survey techniques and technology to help with the assessment and screening process to better help with the needs of the deaf client. They realize there is a need for a lot more funding to help treat substance abuse among the deaf (Lipton, 2007). I also understand the issue that this may cause because in the treatment program I work with funding is a big problem. If our program is not funded then the ability to give proper treatment to clients is impaired. This must be hard for many treatment programs because there is not a lot of funding for the tools needed to cater to the deaf community when it comes to substance abuse but it sounds like they are doing the best to develop tools to help with the problem.


Kelly, David (1998). Man finds place to overcome drugs A deaf user, unable to kick his habits in traditional programs, finds a place with support and sign language interpreters. The Press - Enterprise,p. B01. Retrieved March 26, 2008, from ProQuest Newsstand database.

Pash, Barbara (2005). Deaf And Addicted; A Baltimore woman founded and heads a unique program for deaf people with substance abuse. Baltimore Jewish Times, 286(3), 40. Retrieved March 26, 2008, from Ethnic NewsWatch (ENW) database.

Lipton, Douglas S.; Goldstein, Marjorie F (1997). Measuring substance abuse among the deaf. Journal of Drug Issues v27 p733-54 Fall '97. Retrieved March 26, 2008, from WilsonWeb database.


Also see: Substance Abuse and the Deaf

Also see: Substance Abuse and the Deaf and Hard of Hearing Community

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