In 2018, Social Security Administration (SSA) removed the Blue Book listing for drug addiction and substance abuse. Many people incorrectly believe that drug addiction is only caused by use of illegal substances, but many legal drugs are abused every day, such as alcohol, prescription drugs, nicotine, and caffeine. The most commonly abused drug is alcohol, but other common addictions include amphetamines, steroids, marijuana, and opioids.
For purposes of Social Security, drug addiction involves a pattern of drug use that causes significant distress or problems that include 3 or more of the following symptoms that occur at any time over a 12-month period: 1) it becomes a priority to you to make sure you have a supply of the drug; 2) you do things you would not normally do to get the drug; 3) you spend more time and energy getting and using the drug; 4) you need to use the drug regularly; 5) you drive or do other things when you are under the influence of the drug, even though you know it is unsafe to do so; 6) you keep using the drug, even though you do not want to; 7) you can’t stop using the drug because quitting would cause a physical reaction; 8) you react with anger if anyone questions your use of the drug; 9) you spend money to get the drug, even if you can’t afford it; 10) you give up activities you previously enjoyed; 11) you believe you need the drug to deal with your problems; and 12) you need more and more of the drug to experience the same effect.
Treatments for drug abuse can include psychological therapy, withdrawal therapy, and medical assistance, such as drugs to lessen withdrawal symptoms. Unfortunately, the danger of relapse is high because drug addiction is frequently chronic, and someone in recovery will require ongoing mental and physical health support.
While it is no longer possible to obtain disability benefits through Social Security on the basis of substance abuse, you may still be able to qualify for benefits if SSA determines that your drug addiction is immaterial to your disability. Generally, SSA does not consider drug addiction disabling until it causes one or more irreversible medical conditions. Impairments that may qualify under their own listings include seizures, brain damage, pancreatitis, gastritis, anxiety, depression, personality disorder, liver damage, and peripheral neuropathy.
If you have been diagnosed with drug addiction, SSA cannot hold it against you when determining eligibility for benefits, but it may be more difficult for you to prove that the drug addiction is immaterial to your disability. And, if SSA determines that your condition would improve if you quit drugs, you’ll likely be denied benefits.
If you are currently suffering from drug addiction or have in the past, contact a trusted Social Security disability attorney who can discuss your options with you.