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Is Addiction Considered a Disability Under the ADA?

Addiction is a complex and chronic medical condition characterized by the inability to stop or control drug use despite the negative consequences in your life. Treatable addiction involves complex interactions among the brain’s circuits, the environment, genetics, and an individual’s life experiences. It causes a person to engage in harmful and compulsive behaviors even though they may be detrimental to their life.

What is the Americans With Disabilities Act Exactly?

The ADA or Americans with Disabilities Act prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities in several areas, including employment, public accommodations, transportation, communications, and access to local and state government services and programs. The ADA became law back in 1990. It is a civil rights law that protects people with any disability in all areas of life; this includes a school. The purpose of the ADA is to assure that anyone with a disability has the same rights and opportunities. This law gives rights to individuals similar to the protection people have based on race, sex, color, national origin, age, or religion. Is Addiction Considered a Disability Under the ADA?

Rules for Employees & Employers Based on ADA Guidelines

An estimated 10 to 25% of Americans are sometimes on the job under the influence of alcohol or another illicit drug. Title I of the ADA allows employers to ensure the workplace is free from the use of alcohol or other illegal drugs and to comply with other federal regulations and laws concerning alcohol and drug use. There are legal obligations for employees and employers. The ADA states that an individual actively using illegal drugs does not have a disability. An employer cannot discriminate against someone with a history of drug abuse that is not currently used and rehabilitated. An employer can prohibit the use of alcohol and drugs at the workplace. It isn’t a violation for an employer to give drug tests.

Does the ADA Address Substance Abuse Issues in the Workplace?

An employer can deny employment or terminate anyone actively using drugs. Employees who are using drugs or alcohol must meet the same standards of conduct and performance set forth for other employees. Also, employees may be required to follow the Drug-Free Workplace Act of 1998 and any rules set by federal agencies about alcohol and drug use in the workplace.

Is Addiction Truly Considered a Disability?

Addiction is an impairment that affects the brain and neurological functions, so it is generally considered a disability. However, the Americans with Disabilities Act applies addiction to alcohol and the use of illegal drugs differently. The ADA does provide some protection against discrimination for those recovering from drug and alcohol use. The US Commission of Civil Rights states the following about the Americans With Disabilities Act:

The ADA provides that any employee or job applicant who is currently engaging in the illegal use of drugs is not a qualified individual with a disability. Therefore, an employee who illegally uses drugs, whether the employee is a casual user or an addict is not protected by the ADA if the employer acts on the basis of the illegal drug use. As a result, an employer does not violate the ADA by uniformly enforcing its rules prohibiting employees from illegally using drugs. However, qualified individuals under the ADA include those individuals: who have been successfully rehabilitated and who are no longer engaged in the illegal use of drugs, who are currently participating in a rehabilitation program and are no longer engaging in the illegal use of drugs, and who are regarded, erroneously, as illegally using drugs. A former drug addict may be protected under the ADA because the addiction may be considered a substantially limiting impairment. However, according to the EEOC Technical Assistance Manual on the ADA, a former casual drug user is not protected: person who casually used drugs illegally in the past, but did not become addicted is not an individual with a disability based on the past drug use. In order for a person to be substantially limited because of drug use, they must be addicted to the drug. (

Based on the Americans with Disabilities Act, only those successfully rehabilitated from addiction or substance abuse are protected under this law.

Recover from Addiction Using the ADA Law’s Assistance

Evoke Wellness has a network of drug and alcohol treatment centers that are carefully designed to offer a lasting solution for healing those suffering from substance use disorders. In addition, we offer a safe and comfortable environment for medical detoxification. Our patients are treated extensively so that minimal discomfort is experienced during the detox process. Evoke Wellness provides residential treatment in a structured environment and then provides you with after-care support, which is very important when being treated for addiction. Evoke Wellness is here to help you get on the road to long-term recovery. A sober life begins now!