Drug Addiction and Social Security Disability

Drug Addiction - Condition and Symptoms

Although most Drug Addiction starts with casual or social use of a drug, some people become addicted to a drug originally prescribed by a physician. A common misconception is that Drug Addiction is solely due to use of illegal substances, but that is not always the case. Alcohol is the drug most abused, and it is legal. Nicotine (cigarettes) and prescription drugs are other examples. Even caffeine is a drug. Do you have to have that coffee in the morning to avoid a headache? You may have a caffeine addiction. Obviously, some drugs cause a stronger addiction than others. Further, some drugs cause addiction over a long period of time, while others cause addiction remarkably quickly.

If you notice that your use of a drug becomes more frequent, and if you need larger doses to achieve the same feeling (pain relief, a “high,” calming the nerves, etc.), or if you need the drug simply to feel relaxed and it becomes increasingly difficult to go without it, you are probably addicted. You will know for certain if you try to stop using it and are unable, or if not using it causes you to feel physically ill.

Some of the more common addictions are alcohol, nicotine, cocaine, opiates (codeine, morphine, or heroin), amphetamine (“meth”), methadone, marijuana, caffeine, steroids, vicodin, and other prescription drugs.

Diagnosing a Drug Addiction often starts with the addict, a family member, or friend who becomes concerned because of the symptoms of addiction. If you ask your doctor about the possibility of Drug Addiction, he or she will inquire about your use of the drug in question to see whether your responses match one or more of the symptoms of Drug Addiction. A definitive diagnosis of Drug Addiction is usually made by a mental health professional. Although blood tests will show how much of a drug is in your system, it will not reveal addiction.

A pattern of drug use that causes significant problems or distress that includes three or more of the following symptoms, occurring at any time over a 12-month period will be considered addiction.

Some symptoms or behaviors of drug addicts include:

  • You need to use the drug regularly (usually every few days, daily, or even more frequently).
  • You need more and more of the drug to produce the same effect.
  • You cannot stop using the drug because of a physical reaction.
  • It becomes a high priority to you to make sure you have a supply of the drug.
  • You spend money to obtain the drug, whether or not you can afford it.
  • You do things you normally would not do in order to get the drug (lie, steal, etc.).
  • A belief that you need the drug to deal with problems.
  • You drive or do other things when you are under the influence of the drug, even though you know that it is unsafe.
  • You keep using the drug even though you do not want to.
  • You give up other activities because of your drug use.
  • You spend more and more time and energy getting and using the drug.
  • You react angrily or emotionally if anyone questions your use of the drug.

Treatments for Drug Addiction include withdrawal therapy and psychological therapies (counseling, treatment programs, and self-help groups such as AA). Medical assistance, in the form of other drugs to lessen withdrawal symptoms, may also be needed. Drug Addiction is usually chronic and the danger of relapse is high without ongoing medical and psychological support.

Filing for Social Security Disability with a Drug Addiction Diagnosis

It is not possible at this point in time to receive Social Security Disability benefits based solely on Drug Addiction. The Social Security Administration (SSA) will not grant disability benefits to people with disabilities that have been caused or worsened by addiction.

If Drug Addiction is deemed immaterial to your disability, it is possible that the SSA will grant your disability claim. If, however, the SSA finds that your addiction materially affects your disability, it will not grant your application for disability benefits.

For example, if you are addicted to alcohol and file for disability benefits as a result of having emphysema, the SSA will probably find that your alcohol addiction is immaterial to the condition of emphysema. That being the case, the alcohol addiction will not, in and of itself, prevent approval of your disability application. The application must, however, meet the requirements for emphysema under the SSA guidelines for disability. In contrast, if you are addicted to cigarettes, the SSA will consider smoking material to the fact that you have emphysema, and it will not grant your application, regardless of whether you meet all the criteria for an emphysema disability.

If you are not currently an active addict but you have a history of drug or alcohol addiction, it would be wise to ask a Social Security Disability attorney or disability advocate to help you review your medical records prior to filing for disability, especially if your disability is of a psychiatric nature.

Your Drug Addiction Disability Case

At this time, the SSA does not allow disability benefits for addiction. In addition, if the SSA finds that your addiction is material to your disability claim, your addiction will cause your case to be denied. Only if your addiction is deemed immaterial to the condition for which you are seeking disability benefits, will the addiction not prevent you from obtaining disability benefits.

If you have been an addict, but are now in recovery, it is recommended that you work closely with medical professionals and a qualified Social Security Disability attorney or advocate to collect and present the appropriate documentation to support your disability claim in front of the Disability Determination Services (DDS).