Is Addiction Recognized As A Disability?

Addiction is recognized as a disability due to the effects it causes on the brain and neurological functions.

Under the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA), alcohol addiction is considered a disability whether the addiction is current or not.

Addiction And The Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA)

Under the ADA, a person with a disability:

  • has a physical or mental detriment that limits any major life activities
  • has a history of a detriment that has significantly limited major life activities
  • is considered to have a detriment, whether true or false and has experienced negative action based on that assumption

In the case of an opioid addiction, the ADA only considers it to be a disability if the person is in recovery from the addiction.

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Understanding Substance Abuse Disorders

There are both physical and psychological components to addiction that a person may experience.

Physical Components Of Addiction

The physical components of addiction are focused on physical problems caused by withdrawal or drug tolerance.

Withdrawal symptoms that indicate an addiction include:

  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • seizures
  • hallucinations
  • cravings
  • cramps
  • body aches
  • sweating
  • tremors
  • fast heart rate
  • raised blood pressure

Psychological Components Of Addiction

Psychological components of addiction refer to the mental and emotional effects associated with substance abuse or recovery from addiction.

The psychological components of addiction include:

  • anxiety from trying to stop active addiction
  • drug cravings
  • depression as a result of recovery or trying to stop active addiction
  • mood swings during recovery or withdrawal
  • irritability during recovery or withdrawal
  • loss of appetite or increased appetite from withdrawal
  • denial of substance abuse
  • problems with sleep from recovery or withdrawal
  • constantly thinking about getting or using a drug
  • problems with concentration, problem-solving, judgment

The Legal Status Of Addiction As A Disability

Under the Rehabilitation Act, the ADA, and the Affordable Care Act, addictions or substance use disorders are considered to be a disability.

State agencies known as State Disability Determination Services are designed to give medical evidence and determine if a person is disabled.

Historical Context

The ADA was created in July of 1990 to prevent discrimination against those with a disability and ensure that they have the same rights as everyone in society.

Addiction was recognized as a disability in 1996.

Disability Rights

A disability diagnosis offers several key rights; these include:

1. Employment

Employers with 15 or more employees have to give those with disabilities the same ability to benefit from employment opportunities.

The ADA restricts the questions that can be asked about someone’s disability before making a job offer, and employers have to make reasonable accommodations for them.

An employer can also not discriminate against someone with a disability for a promotion, training, hiring, or other employment-related event.

2. State and Local Programs

The state or local programs are required to give someone with a disability an equal ability to benefit from programs such as employment, health care, social services, public education, etc.

They must also make sure that the programs are accessible for those with speech, hearing, or vision disabilities.

3. Accommodations In Public

Public accommodations such as zoos, convention centers, movie theaters, hotels, stores, etc., have to prevent discrimination and unequal treatment of those with disabilities.

Public accommodations have to make their organizations accessible in terms of policies, procedures, and buildings.

4. Telecommunications Act

The Telecommunications Act requires businesses that make telecommunications tools to ensure that they are usable to someone with a disability.

This ensures that someone with a disability can access cell phones, operators, telephones, etc.

5. Fair Housing Act

The Fair Housing Act prevents housing discrimination of those with disabilities or based on race, sex, religion, etc. This includes state and local housing through the government, private houses, and more.

6. The Voting Accessibility Act

This act requires polling locations in the United States to be physically accessible to someone with a disability to vote in a federal election. If there is no local polling location that is accessible, there must be an alternative method to vote.

The National Voter Registration Act seeks to increase the low registration rates of those with disabilities from discrimination.

7. Individuals With Disabilities Education Act

This act requires public schools to make free public education available to children with a disability. It requires schools to create an individualized education program or IEP for the child to encourage growth at their pace.

8. Architectural Barriers Act

The ABA requires buildings created with federal funds or managed by a federal agency to be designed for physical accessibility by meeting federal standards. This is limited to new or altered buildings.

Debates Over Whether Addiction Is A Disability

While addiction is recognized as a disability by the ADA, there are still debates over whether it is a disability from a clinical and political perspective.

The Clinical Perspective

The vast majority of scientists who study addiction agree that addiction is a disease of the brain. However, there is less of a consensus in regard to whether addiction qualifies as a disability.

The mental detriment caused by a substance use disorder technically defines it as a disability, but some medical professionals argue that the neural malfunction caused by addiction is not severe enough to extend disability benefits to people living with addiction.

The Political Perspective

From a political perspective, most people debate against addiction being classified as a disability. This is usually due to the issue that regardless of risk, a person makes the conscious choice to participate in drug or alcohol use.

Common debates against the categorization of addiction as a disability are that:

  • recognizing addiction as a disability will reinforce the view that people living with addiction are criminals or deviants in society
  • extending disability benefits to people with substance use disorders will disempower them because they don’t currently see themselves as disabled

Qualifying For Disability Benefits

To qualify for Disability benefits, you need to have worked in jobs that are covered by the Social Security Administration and have a medical condition that meets the requirements of a disability by Social Security.

Disability benefits are paid monthly for people who can’t work due to their disability, and there is usually a five month waiting period. Benefits continue until you can work regularly.

Begin Your Addiction Recovery Today

Although addiction is recognized as a disability by the ADA, the debate over the label continues.

Contact our team at Bedrock Recovery Center today to learn more about how we can help you recover from addiction.

  1. American With Disabilities Act National Network,treated%20differently%20under%20the%20ADA
  2. American With Disabilities Act National Network
  3. International Centre On Human Rights And Drug Policy
  4. National Library Of Medicine
  5. Social Security Administration (SSA)

Written by Bedrock Recovery Center Editorial Team

Published on: October 9, 2023

© 2024 Bedrock Recovery Center | All Rights Reserved

* This page does not provide medical advice.

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