is drug addiction a disability

Is Drug Addiction a Disability?

Unfortunately, disabilities have long been at the root of financial hardships and all-around discomfort. Many places of employment have, sadly, discriminated against people with disabilities, leading to laws and regulations that prohibit such actions. But, there are also those who are unsure about what classifies as a disability. Namely, a question that might arise often in this regard might be, “Is drug addiction a disability?” 

Truly, this question is one that many people pose. This might especially be a concern when it comes to insurance coverage for addiction treatment. It may also be a question that comes to mind for employers and other people who may feel the impact of an individual’s addiction.

This is why it’s important to address the questions individuals may have on the subject of substance use disorders. It is also necessary to discuss the right and more favorable ways to speak to people who suffer from addiction. These methods include using person-first language and having an attitude of genuine understanding.

An Overview of Drug and Alcohol Use Disorders

First, it is critical to understand what it means to have an alcohol or drug use disorder. When a person suffers from a substance use disorder, it means he or she has a substance dependency. This dependence on alcohol or drugs prevents the individual from being able to function normally. Instead, those who suffer from addiction rely on the influence of these substances.

Substance use disorders can affect people of any age group. It occurs and develops as a result of various unique causes and circumstances. With that being said, it’s important to recognize the fact that addiction requires customized care. Professionals who offer treatment for alcoholism and drug misuse must have an in-depth understanding of these disorders. It also helps for family members, friends, and employers of struggling individuals to have a working knowledge of addiction.

Alcohol Use Disorder

A person who suffers from alcohol use disorder (or alcoholism) uses alcohol more often than experts consider to be healthy. Consuming an excessive amount of alcohol can be harmful and even life-threatening. However, despite the risks and dangers that present themselves, those who suffer from alcoholism cannot control their alcohol use. 

This is due to the effect alcohol has on the brain and body. Those who develop a dependence on alcohol feel as though they cannot function without it. Their bodies struggle to perform “normally” without alcohol. This is a result of increased tolerance and alcohol use. 

Drug Use Disorder

Individuals who suffer from drug use disorders depend on drugs. Excessive drug use alters the brain structure, causing various chemical imbalances and functionality changes. As a result of these changes within the brain, individuals often become unable to control their substance use. 

This inability to control or end drug use leads to mental, emotional, and physical health problems. Many people who suffer from drug dependence experience serious and life-altering effects. These include financial stress, medical emergencies, legal issues, relationship problems, and more.

What is a Disability?

By definition, disabilities are impairments on a person’s physical body, emotions, and/or mind. Individuals can suffer from disabilities that relate to their mental and cognitive abilities. For example, learning disabilities sometimes affect children in school. Also, people who experience injuries may develop physical disabilities. Some may be born with physical or emotional disabilities.

Is Drug Addiction a Disability?

According to the Department of Health & Human Services, “Section 504 of the Rehabilitation

Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act, and Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act” answers the question, “is drug addiction a disability?”

These Acts state that drug addiction is considered to be a disability in cases where the addiction is causing major limitations in an individual’s life. Certain and specific elements must be present for a drug use disorder to qualify as a disability. Individuals who meet these criteria can have access to and protection through disability laws.

Firstly, individuals who have completed treatment for addiction and are not actively using drugs can receive protection through federal laws regarding disabilities. Also, those who are currently working through a treatment program for addiction and are not using illegal drugs may qualify. Or, individuals who are may mistakenly be regarded as involved in drug use, but are not actually using drugs may qualify. 

With protection under federal disability rights laws, individuals receive protection from discrimination. In other words, individuals cannot be excluded from services or denied certain benefits due to their disabilities.

Understanding the Exceptions

There are certainly exceptions and circumstances that may alter one’s ability to qualify for disability benefits. The Department of Health & Human Services gives information on this, as well. In cases where individuals are actively using illicit drugs, they are not exactly considered to have a disability. This results in an exclusion when a covered entity takes “adverse action” due to current use. Still, however, health services or addiction treatment-related services cannot be denied. 

Also, individuals who are receiving medication-assisted treatment (MAT) may be able to have protection under disability acts and laws. But, this is mainly based on the specifics of each case. In other words, protection and rights will vary from case to case.

Addiction Treatment and Insurance

Experts recognize addiction as a disease. Since this is the case, insurance companies must provide coverage for those who suffer from substance use disorders. Individuals who struggle with the effects of drug or alcohol use disorders can seek help from professional treatment centers with help from insurance companies. (However, it is important to note that coverage options will vary. It is also critical to find out more about in-network and out-of-network options when seeking treatment.)

Those who suffer from co-occurring disorders can also find the hope and help they need through treatment. Many insurance plans cover treatment for mental health treatment in addition to substance use disorders.

How to Properly Address Addiction

Once an individual realizes the need for addiction treatment, it is necessary for the person to seek help. Unfortunately, however, many individuals find that recovery centers are ill-equipped or unprepared to truly help them. One of the main ways in which facilities can best prepare to treat struggling individuals is to gain more information about how to approach these individuals. Likewise, family members and friends of sufferers should learn more about this matter as they seek to help.

Substance dependence is a very serious matter. Those who suffer from it are often met with stigma and misunderstanding. But, the truth of the matter is that addiction is a disease. People who struggle with alcoholism or drug dependence do not choose to suffer in this way. So it’s important for families, friends, and treatment specialists to understand the right way to approach those who are suffering. 

One of the most important elements of helping individuals who are struggling with addiction is through communication. The way in which a person speaks to a suffering individual is more effective than many realize. This is why it is vital to understand the importance of “person-first language”.

What is “Person-First Language”?

Person-first language, as the name implies, is language that places the person first. It is an approach to addiction that places the individual before the condition. For example, calling an individual an “addict” does not place the person before the disease. Instead, it prevents them from being a separate entity from their condition. Another harmful way of verbally addressing suffering or struggling individuals is to say “disabled person”. 

Person-first language would instead recognize that an individual is not his or her addiction. It would place the individual before the substance use disorder. An example of a person-first language approach would be as follows: “a person who suffers from substance dependence”. Also, it is better to refer to individuals who have disabilities such as addiction or other physical disabilities as having a disability rather than being disabled.

When approaching an individual who is suffering from a substance use disorder, it is critical to come with understanding. Part of addressing addiction is knowing how to discuss it and how to approach those who suffer from it. 

Treatment specialists and families alike can be more helpful just by adjusting the way they verbally approach addiction. Person-first language is one of the most effective ways to appropriately address cases involving substance use.

Why is Person-First Language Important?

Placing the person ahead of the substance use disorder prevents causing individuals to feel inseparable from their addiction. If people feel as though they are no more than what they suffer from, they will eventually begin to feel that recovery is impossible. The point of addiction treatment is to prevent this mentality from developing.

The truth of the matter is that person-first language isn’t about making a person feel better. It is not about sounding more professional or creating an illusion of understanding or political correctness. It is simply a sign of an accurate understanding of addiction and other disabilities. Those who truly understand the effects of addiction will know that this disorder can cause major challenges in a person’s life.

When approaching those who have substance use disorders, specialists must be able to do so properly. Otherwise, mutual trust will never be established. Individuals in treatment will not be able to learn from misunderstanding professionals. Thus, recovery may never truly take place.

Find Help, Hope, and Healing at Sana Lake

Here at Sana Lake Recovery Center, we do more than simply treat addiction. We strive to address and bring healing to every area of our members’ lives. Those who come to us can expect to find a team that understands the importance of treating the whole person. Members of our treatment facility are more than the addictions they are facing. We seek to recognize the potential in each one who comes to our center.

If you have been suffering from substance dependence, you know all too well how this disorder affects one’s life. Perhaps you are experiencing changes in your family or within your relationships. Maybe you are dealing with major difficulties at your job or struggling to stay afloat with your studies at school. You may even be facing problems in your physical or mental health. Sadly, many people who suffer from addiction experience these issues.

However, the good news is that you don’t have to struggle any longer! At Sana Lake, we are here to equip you with the tools you need as you seek recovery. Our team of compassionate and skilled addiction treatment specialists and therapists offers the best of care to our members.

Today is the day to begin experiencing a change. Now is the time to move forward, leaving substance use in the past. Please contact us here at Sana Lake Recovery Center today. We will work with you to overcome addiction and begin a new life. Allow us to help you through our comprehensive and individualized treatment and therapy approaches. Reach out to us now and begin your new journey to freedom!

References:

https://www.hhs.gov/sites/default/files/drug-addiction-aand-federal-disability-rights-laws-fact-sheet.pdf

Article Reviewed by David Sherman, MD

David Sherman, MDDavid Sherman, MD is a Fellow of the American Society of Addiction Medicine (FASAM) and board certified in Addiction Medicine with the American Board of Preventive Medicine. He is a native Missourian and graduated medical school at the University of Missouri-Columbia School of Medicine. Dr. Sherman completed a two-year fellowship in Addiction Medicine at the University of Florida in Gainesville. He leads a highly trained staff of master level certified addiction professionals. Men and women from all over Missouri and the United States come to Sana Lake Recovery Center to get the care they need and deserve.