Can you be Awarded Social Security Disability Benefits if you have Ever Used Drugs or Alcohol?

by Editorial Board on December 29, 2010 · 1 comment

in Winning Disability Benefits,Questions & Answers,Basics of SSD,Treatment & Compliance,Legal Concepts in SSD,Why People Are Denied

Yes, it is still possible to receive social security disability benefits if you have used illegal drugs or alcohol.  The use of drugs and alcohol is definitely a factor that the state agency and an Administrative Law Judge will consider when deciding your case, but a claim will not be precluded based solely on a history of substance abuse.  It is best to view the significance of substance abuse in your case on a sliding scale.  The effect of substance abuse varies in accordance with the alleged impairments and how recently the illegal substance or alcohol was used.

If the claim is based primarily on a mental impairment, it will be much more difficult to prove that the mental impairment exists independently from the effects of substance abuse.  For example, if a claimant is alleging disability due to depression but continues to smoke marijuana daily, a judge may decide that the marijuana is causing the depression and that the claimant may not carry a true diagnosis of depression.  On the other hand, if your claim is based on a purely physical impairment, the use of drugs or alcohol may not be as damaging.  In a case where a claimant was in a motor vehicle accident and lost the functional use of both his arms, the judge will consider any drug or alcohol use, but it is not as detrimental as if drugs or alcohol directly worsened the impairment.

Ongoing substance abuse may also damage the credibility of a claim.  For instance, if a claimant drinks to the point of intoxication every day then claims that her memory is impaired due to a work injury, the judge may have a difficult time believing her due to her history of alcohol abuse.  If a claimant is continuing to use drugs or alcohol, this is more of an issue than if a claimant used in the remote past.  Having used cocaine once fifteen years ago will not be as damaging to a person claiming a disability as someone who used cocaine for ten years and quit only six months ago.  Keep in mind that the continued use of drugs or alcohol can also hinder the effectiveness of prescription drugs.  Some illegal drugs result in making prescription drugs useless.  The judge may decide that the claimant is not compliant with their medications because they are not being effectively used.

A history of drug or alcohol abuse will not by itself cause your claim to be denied.  It is an aspect that will be measured according to how recently and how often the illegal substance or alcohol was used and what type of impairment you are alleging. Of course, it is best not only for your social security disability claim but for your health to abstain from any illegal drugs or excessive alcohol use.  If you are currently abusing drugs or alcohol, please seek help.

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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Miato January 8, 2011 at 7:03 pm

Hola,

Es conforme, la pieza muy buena
Miato

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