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Know Your Rights: Addiction is a Disability

Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA)

The ADA is a law passed in 1990 aimed at preventing discrimination against a wide variety of characteristics, including race, religion, gender, and national origin. Alcoholism and drug addiction are both disabilities under the ADA, although they are treated differently.

Drug Use

If you are currently using illegal drugs you are not covered under the ADA. However, if you are currently receiving treatment or are successfully recovered, you are protected from discrimination based on past drug addiction. Any positive drug test is considered “illegal drug use” and the ADA protections no longer apply.


A person who currently uses alcohol may still be considered protected under the ADA, so long as it does not impact job performance or your qualifications for that job. If alcohol impacts your ability to hold a job and perform normal job functions, your employer is within their rights to discipline or fire you, as appropriate.

Internet Resources

Educational in a new tab) - the CDC is a great resource for education on the disease of addiction, substance use, and other diseases that patients can be at risk of exposure to. in a new tab) - branch of the federal government charged with prevention, treatment, and rehabilitative services. There is extensive education and access to other online resources on the website. in a new tab) - run by NIDA (National Institute of Drug Abuse) and has resources for learning about your substance of addiction, addiction and health, a news outlet, and free publications. in a new tab) - a non-profit organization that educates on the disease of opioid addiction and the Suboxone treatment option. The site allows you to locate treatment nearby and has buprenorphine education. in a new tab) provides answers regarding medication and other recovery supports as well.

Employment in a new tab) - a free hiring website that links employers with job seekers who may have a disability, be in recovery, have a criminal record, and older people. (website may be down for maintenance)

Legal / Public Perception - this is the only law and policy non-profit in the US whose sole mission is to fight discrimination against people with histories of addiction, HIV/AIDS, or criminal records and advocate public policies in these areas. The site provides legal assistance resources, current news, and free publications. (opens in a new tab)- this is a non-profit organization that has opportunities for action, recovery stories, and resources such as free publications.