Is Substance Use Disorder an Official Disability?

Substance use disorders, like alcoholism and drug addiction, are very complicated things to have to deal with. It can ultimately end up destroying your life. Your finances, career, family, and health all go down the drain if it goes on long enough.

Although there may be some quality of choice in the first drink or drug you take, substance abuse disorder is considered a disease among the medical community. This is because of how your brain reacts and rewires itself in response to drugs or alcohol as well as the progressive and chronic nature of substance use disorder and addiction.

Is Substance Use Disorder an Official Disability?

Is Drug Addiction a Disability?

According to the US Department of Health and Human Services, drug addiction is considered an official disability when the drug significantly limits your major life activity. While it is considered a disability, the terms of collecting disability benefits are not quite the same. Someone who is actively engaging in the illegal use of drugs is excluded from receiving benefits like Social Security and Supplemental Security Income programs.  You will not, however, be denied any health services or other services provided like drug rehabilitation while in active use.

You can receive these other benefits, like SSI, for any health problems or injuries related to your substance abuse, but this only applies if you were to stop drinking or using drugs. Even then, you have to prove it. Some examples of what can qualify to meet the social security disability criteria include pancreatitis, liver damage, seizures, brain damage, depression, and anxiety disorders, among many others. To reiterate, you cannot be inactive in substance use to qualify for disability benefits. The DHHR lays out that federal disability rights are protected for people if they:

  • Have successfully finished a drug rehabilitation program and are not currently involved in the illegal use of drugs.
  • Are a part of a supervised drug rehab program.
  • Have wrongly regarded in engaging in this use, but are not.

Substance Use Disorder is a Mental Impairment

Substance use disorder is mental impairment. This would also mean that an employer is not able to take action against you due to your disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act. It would be considered illegal to be disciplined just because you are disabled. However, this is a fine line. You can still be fired or receive discipline if you were showing up to work drunk or high or behaving out of line for example. Under the ADA, the substance abuse disorder itself is a disability, but getting a drink at work is not.

Another situation that people oftentimes wonder about is if they would ever need to take time off of work to attend rehab services. If the accommodations seem reasonable, your employer is required to allow them. But if, for example, you ask for 3-4 months off from work, this might not be considered a reasonable request.

Living with a disability such as a substance use disorder can have a serious impact on your well-being. The fact that it is considered an official disability can, in the future, open so many more doors and shed more light on ways to fight this disease as well as prevent it together.

Treat Your Substance Use Disorder

Substance use disorder is a disabling disease, but you do not have to let it cripple you to the point of no return. Drug rehabilitation is the best option to get yourself sober so that you can finally focus on your life and your health again. Today can be the day you decide to stop letting this disease cripple you. Yes, substance use disorder is a disability, but it doesn’t have to stop your life in its tracks if you don’t want it to. If you or a loved one suffer from substance abuse Garden State Treatment Center is here to help you on your path to sobriety.