Drug addiction is an illness that affects millions of Americans. It has the power to take over one’s life and cause problems at work, home, school, etc. The question on many people’s minds is whether drug addiction should be considered a disability. When someone becomes addicted to drugs, they are unable to enjoy life in the same way as before due to their physical dependence on substances like heroin or cocaine. This could lead them to lose friends who don’t want anything more than friendship because of their dependency. They also may have trouble holding down a job or maintaining relationships with family members because they seek out more drugs instead of being present for those around them. If you relate this to what it means for someone with a disability, you’ll find the same issue. However, there are differences between being disabled by drug addiction and being disabled by a physical handicap where the person cannot work due to their disability. The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) defines a “disability” as “a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities…” A significant life activity can be thought of as an activity that most people take for granted. According to the ADA, walking, seeing, hearing, and breathing are all considered significant activities. Under this definition, if someone’s drug addiction becomes severe enough where they cannot function at work or school because they must constantly focus on obtaining drugs over other factors in their life, they could be said to have a disability. If they seek out treatment and successfully recover from their addiction, the disability is no longer applicable. However, suppose someone has a severe addiction and never seeks help to overcome it. In that case, it could take over everything in their life and even lead them to die of an overdose or other related medical issues such as heart failure or hepatitis caused by dirty needles. Looking at both these scenarios, one person was disabled by their addiction while the other overcame it with help from family members and professionals. If we take this back to the ADA’s definition of disability, every case would be considered a disability because all people suffering from drug addiction are “physically or mentally impaired.” Therefore, under this definition, all cases for those suffering from drug addiction would come under disability. The ADA’s definition of disability is too broad to be applied in every situation involving drug addiction. It would also lead to cases being considered disabilities where someone cannot work because they are simply unemployed or on leave from work, which is not considered disabilities under the ADA. These cases sometimes have more to do with their personal choices than anything else. Sometimes someone chooses to use drugs over working for this reason. Still, others may decide not to get a job due to having an untreated mental illness that leads them away from wanting social interaction of any kind or leads them into conflict with authority figures at their workplace. Many of these people don’t even realize their impairment and continue blaming “bad luck” for their lack of employment when it has nothing to do with luck. While these people may cause problems at work or school, they are not disabled by drug addiction and should not be able to use the ADA as a means for claiming disability benefits. The ADA is now being used as a way for those suffering from drug addiction to claim disability benefits if they can’t keep their job due to their dependency on drugs. The question is whether this should be allowed because based on the definition of disability under the ADA, it would seem as though such cases could fall under this category since drug addiction “substantially limits one or more major life activities.” However, let’s look beyond that definition and into how it is applied in practice. We’ll see that many of these cases don’t fit well as disabilities as defined by the ADA because these people didn’t let drug addiction completely take over their lives and lead to them being unable to work. All cases involving drug addiction must be judged based on how severe they truly are and whether or not drug addiction completely took over someone’s life to the point where it made them unable to work. Under the ADA, I believe all such cases would qualify as disabilities since drug addiction is always an impairment. However, one must look at every point individually and judge it based on its severity and whether these people could live everyday lives despite their dependency. This makes many claims of those suffering from drug addiction qualified for benefits so questionable because judges will have no choice but to consider them as legitimate disabilities if their claim is based on the ADA’s definition of disability. In conclusion, I believe the ADA’s definition of disability is too broad to apply in every claim involving drug addiction. While I agree that many people who are disabled by their dependency on drugs should be eligible for benefits, I also believe that many cases which fall under this category cannot qualify as disabilities under the ADA because these people didn’t let their addiction completely take over their lives and disable them from work. Are you struggling with drug addiction? Struggle no more! Contact us today for urgent help. Call us at 424-499-2603.
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