Is addiction considered a disability?

Regardless of whether alcohol addiction is current or past, it is generally considered a disability because it is an impediment that affects brain and neurological functions. While drug addiction and alcoholism are considered diseases, a person cannot receive disability benefits simply because of an addiction. If a person shows signs of disability but would not be disabled if they stopped using substances, they will be denied disability benefits. In this sense, addiction alone is not a disability.

You can't get Social Security disability benefits for drug addiction, even if your drug dependence makes it impossible for you to work. So, if drug addiction is your only impediment, you don't qualify for disability benefits. And, in fact, if you are addicted to drugs and use them, this can prevent you from receiving disability benefits for other disabilities as well. However, if you have stopped taking medication and SSA thinks you are in recovery, you should be able to receive disability benefits.

The diagnosis of a drug addiction often begins with the addict, a family member, or a friend who worries about the symptoms of addiction. Sometimes the question arises as to whether a drug addict employee who violates company rules can, before being disciplined, enroll in a supervised drug rehabilitation program and then claim ADA protection as a former drug addict who no longer uses drugs illegally. With an alarming prevalence of addiction among people with disabilities, many seek to understand whether addiction itself is a disability. In addition, if SSA determines that your addiction is important to your disability claim, your addiction will cause your case to be denied.

For example, if you are addicted to alcohol and apply for disability benefits as a result of having emphysema, SSA will likely discover that your alcohol addiction is irrelevant to the condition of emphysema. In addition, some drugs cause addiction over a long period of time, while others cause addiction remarkably quickly. Only if your addiction is considered irrelevant to the condition for which you are applying for disability benefits will the addiction not prevent you from obtaining disability benefits. Although most drug addictions begin with casual or social use of a drug, some people become addicted to a drug originally prescribed by a doctor.

A former drug addict may be protected by the ADA because addiction can be considered a substantially limiting impediment. For example, the ADA recognizes alcohol addiction as a disability and provides protection, whether the addiction is current or past.


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