Substance Use and Disability – A Look at NIDILRR-Funded Research

Last week, NIDILRR released a Funding Opportunity Announcement for a Disability and Rehabilitation Research Projects (DRRP) Program: Research on Opioid Use Disorder Among People with Disabilities. The announcement followed several months of careful research to write an opportunity that answered the needs of the community in regard to opioid use and disability. Earlier in the year, NIDILRR released a Request for Information on the topic to generate comments, concerns, and ideas from the community on this issue. The result, summarized in a report released May 4th (PDF), provided information about “what is known and what are the most pressing research questions for the disability and rehabilitation research fields.” Among the responses, NIDILRR found that:

  • New evidence suggests that people with disabilities are more likely than the general population to misuse opioids and develop related disorders, but they may be less likely to receive treatment than their peers without disabilities.
  • Barriers to treatment included physical accessibility of treatment centers, limited insurance coverage, and policies that withheld opioid prescriptions without first offering pain management alternatives.
  • People with disabilities involving serious traumatic injury such as spinal cord or brain injuries may be at greater risk of opioid misuse and unintentional death due to opioid poisoning.

Many people with disabilities experience pain on a daily basis and may use opioids as part of their physician-directed pain management. Research is needed in this area to understand how these individuals and their care teams can balance the need to manage pain and the risk of substance abuse. This opportunity is not NIDILRR’s first foray into exploring the connection between disability and substance use disorders. NIDILRR-funded research in this area has included:


(Click the project title to view an abstract and links to any related publications in NARIC’s REHABDATA database)

Integrated Program to Improve Competitive Employment in Dually Diagnosed Clients (Field Initiated 2014-2017)

Treatment Development for Alcohol Craving and Rehabilitation Among Individuals with Co-Occurring Mild Traumatic Brain Injury, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, and Alcohol Use Disorder. (Fellowship 2013-2014

Deaf Off Drugs and Alcohol: Evaluating a Technology-Assisted E-Therapy Program for Substance Use Disorder Treatment (Field Initiated 2011-2013)

A National Assessment of the Rates and Correlates of Alcohol and Other Drug Use by College Students with Disabilities (Field Initiated 2008-2011)


The Impact of Alcohol Use on Outcome and Recovery after Traumatic Brain Injury. (Fellowship 2006-2007)

Rehabilitation Research and Training Center on Substance Abuse, Disability, and Employment. (Rehabilitation Research and Training Center 2004-2010)


Rehabilitation Research and Training Center on Drugs and Disability (RRTC 1997-2001) and the RRTC on Substance Abuse and Disability (1993-1997)

Substance Abuse Treatment for Adults with Chronic Mental Illness (Fellowship 1994-1995)

Substance Abuse as a Barrier to Employment for Persons with Traumatic Brain Injury. (Disability and Rehabilitation Research Project 1991-1995)

Pre 1990

Innovation Grant to Develop a Unique Rehabilitation Curriculum to Train Rehabilitation Counseling Masters Students in Alcoholism Counseling to Work with Multidisabled Alcoholics. (Innovative Research Projects, 1987-1988)

Medication Effects on Attention and Behavior in Head Injured Patients. (Field Initiated 1986-1987)

Relation of Substance Use to Rehabilitation Outcome in Persons with Spinal Cord Injury. (Field Initiated 1986-1987)


Explore publications from these projects and other members of the NIDILRR community in the area of substance use disorders:

If you are a person with a disability who is concerned about substance use disorder, please visit the Behavioral Health Treatment Services Locator at or call your local 211 to speak with a community-level information specialist who can help you find treatment in your area.

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1 Response to Substance Use and Disability – A Look at NIDILRR-Funded Research

  1. Pingback: [BLOG POST] Substance Use and Disability – A Look at NIDILRR – Funded Research | TBI Rehabilitation

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