When applying for Social Security Disability benefits, you may wonder whether admitting alcohol or drug use will cause a denial of your benefit claim. Many individuals suffering from disabilities self-medicate with alcohol and drug use. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office on Disability, alcohol and drug consumption occur more often in persons with disabilities than in the general population. The Office of Disability also reported that persons with any type of disability experience substance abuse at rates 2 to 4 times that of the general population. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (2002) estimated that approximately 4.7 million American adults with a disability self-medicate with alcohol or drugs.
Even though it is widely acknowledged that individuals with disabilities self-medicate, the Social Security Administration (SSA) can deny benefits on the basis of alcohol or drug use if it believes that the use contributes to the disability. For example, if you have filed for disability benefits on the basis of a physical or mental impairment and it can be shown that without the effects of your drug and alcohol use, the condition would not be disabling, SSA may deny your claim. There are, however, certain exceptions that your NC Social Security Disability attorney can explain to you. Evidence that merely shows that the applicant uses drugs or alcohol does not in itself establish the existence of a medically determinable substance use disorder. In addition, one can apply for disability benefits on the basis of a medical condition caused by drug or alcohol use, such as liver disease.