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Is Drug Addiction a Disability?

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Under ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act), which was enacted in 1990, alcohol and drug addiction are legally acknowledged as disabilities.

This designation provides several protections, mainly aimed at preventing discrimination. Specifically, a person with a disability – including those with alcohol or drug addictions – is guaranteed equal opportunities in employment and is protected from discrimination by both governmental and private entities.

Why Is Drug Addiction Considered a Disability?

Drug addiction is considered a disability because it involves a physical or mental impairment that significantly limits one or more major life activities. The nature of addiction, which changes the brain’s structure and function, results in substantial impediments to a person’s ability to perform daily tasks, engage in social activities, or manage essential life functions.

Addiction’s impact on neurological processes and brain chemistry categorizes it under disabilities due to its long-term effects on an individual’s cognitive, emotional, and behavioral capabilities. Addiction is a complex health condition that requires a comprehensive approach to treatment, support, and legal protections to ensure that everyone facing addiction has the same rights and opportunities.

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Is Drug Addiction a Disability Under ADA?

ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) aims to guarantee equal rights and opportunities for individuals with disabilities, including addictions to alcohol, prescription medications, and illicit drugs.

The scope of ADA extends to all departments and agencies within state and local governments, termed as public entities. This includes sectors like the criminal justice system (jails, prisons, probation, and courts) and recovery homes operated by state and local governments.

The Act mandates that all programs, services, and activities provided by these entities must be accessible and usable by individuals with disabilities. Beyond this, ADA stipulates that requests for policy modifications or adjustments in program operations by individuals with disabilities must be considered.

An individual qualifies as having a disability under ADA if they:

  • Possess a physical or mental impairment that significantly restricts one or more major life activities, such as those with bipolar disorder, diabetes, or alcohol addiction.
  • Have a history of an impairment that significantly restricted one or more major life activities, like individuals in remission from cancer or recovering from illegal drug use.
  • Are perceived to have such an impairment – for example, if a prison incorrectly assumes an inmate is drug-addicted and segregates them based on that belief.
  • Major life activities include, but are not limited to, capabilities like walking, seeing, self-care, learning, thinking, communicating, and internal bodily functions, including neurological and brain functions.

Generally, addiction is viewed as a disability since it is an impairment affecting neurological and brain functions. ADA differentiates between alcohol addiction and illegal drug use, though: alcohol use disorder is considered a disability regardless of current or past use, while protection for individuals addicted to opioids and other drugs is extended only to those in recovery and not currently involved in illegal drug use.

Drug Addiction Disability FAQs

Can I file for disability if I have an addiction?

Yes, you can file for disability if you have an addiction, but eligibility depends on how the addiction impacts your ability to work and if it leads to a disabling condition recognized by the Social Security Administration.

Will my insurance cover drug addiction as a disability?

Coverage varies by insurance plan, but most major health insurance carriers do provide benefits for drug addiction treatment under mental health and substance use disorder coverage.

Does addiction classify as a disability under FMLA?

Yes, under FMLA (Family and Medical Leave Act), addiction may qualify as a serious health condition, allowing eligible employees to take unpaid, job-protected leave for treatment.

Is drug addiction a disability in California?

In California, drug addiction is considered a disability under FEHA (Fair Employment and Housing Act), providing protection against employment discrimination for individuals with a history of drug addiction who are in recovery.

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Find Treatment for Drug Addiction at Drug Rehabs Centers

Many people who need treatment for drug or alcohol addiction have no idea how to connect with appropriate services. 

By calling Drug Rehabs Centers, you can speak with trained and empathetic professionals ready to answer all your questions about rehab and recovery.

If you are ready to begin your journey to recovery, we provide referrals services that include:

All the rehabs we recommend are accredited and licensed, and they all blend evidence-based and holistic treatments to promote whole-body recovery from drug addiction or alcoholism.

For effective and compassionate drug and alcohol rehab, call 866.559.4256 for 24/7 assistance.

Juan Bonnet
Author: Juan Bonnet


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