Can I Work With Drug Addiction?

Drug addiction is a mental disorder characterized by a physical, mental, or emotional dependence on a substance. The substance may be legal (such as alcohol), illegal (such as marijuana, cocaine, crack, or heroin) or a legal substance used in an illegal manner (such as huffing inhalants or solvents). Generally speaking, when we refer to drug addiction as a disabling condition, we are referring to alcoholism (abuse of and addiction to alcohol) or dependence upon illegal drugs.

Anyone who is dealing with a drug addiction knows that it can be debilitating. Often, drug addiction starts with recreational use of drugs, but turns into a full blown dependence. The drug addict may or may not desire to give up the habit, and may experience severe physical and emotional symptoms (withdrawals) if he or she goes without the substance her body has grown accustomed to receiving.

It goes without saying that the addicted individual can experience difficulty in maintaining employment. In addition to the fact that many employers regularly test employees for illegal substances, a drug addict’s habit may cause physical and emotional/mental problems that make it difficult or impossible to stay on the job.

As recently as the 1990s, you could receive Social Security Disability benefits on the basis of drug addiction if your drug addiction made it impossible for you to maintain gainful employment. This is no longer the case. As of this writing, not only does drug addiction not qualify you for Social Security Disability benefits, even if it makes it impossible for you to continue working, but you may also be disqualified for Social Security Disability benefits if drug addiction or alcoholism is determined to be a contributing factor to other disabilities.

The rule of thumb used when determining Social Security Disability is that you will not be considered disabled if the adjudicator decides that your condition would not qualify you for Social Security Disability benefits if you were to stop using drugs right now. You may still be qualified for a condition that was caused by drug use, but you may not be considered disabled if stopping your drug use would cause your condition to improve.

Drug Addiction and Your Ability to Perform Physical Work

Drug abuse can certainly make physical work difficult in some cases. However, the Social Security Administration will only consider you disabled if your drug addiction is not a relevant contributing factor to your disabling condition. Anytime you apply for Social Security Disability, you will want to make sure that any and all physical restrictions are clearly listed, regardless of the cause. It is not, however, in your best interest to list drug addiction as a contributing factor if it can be avoided, though lying about it isn’t a good idea either, if you are directly questioned.

Drug Addiction and Your Ability to Perform Sedentary Work

Most sedentary jobs require sitting for long periods of time, paying attention to detailed work, and dealing with other people. Many of them also require specialized training or education. While one person with a drug addiction’s ability to do these things will differ considerably from another’s, it won’t really matter if the reason you can’t perform available sedentary work is determined to be because of your drug addiction. If, at any time, it is found that you could perform available work if it weren’t for your drug addiction, your Social Security Disability claim will be denied.

People with a drug addiction face a difficult battle when filing a Social Security disability claim, even if your disability is caused by something else. Howeverm, with that said, it is not impossible to have a claim accepted. Often, those who are addicted to drugs have other mental conditions which do qualify them for Social Security Disability benefits, and as long as it can’t be proven that your mental conditions will improve if you stop using drugs, you may be approved. In any case, you should consider hiring an experienced Social Security Disability lawyer who is experienced in winning claims despite the issue of drug abuse.