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Ending Discrimination Against People With Alcohol and Drug Problems

NCJ Number
Date Published
35 pages
This document discusses discrimination against people with alcohol or other drug disease, and provides recommendations to rectify the situation.
Public and private policies restrict the access of people with drug and alcohol problems to appropriate health care, employment, and public benefits, discouraging them from seeking treatment and destroying their hope of recovery. Addiction to alcohol or other drugs is a treatable chronic disease that should be viewed and addressed as a public health issue. People seeking treatment or recovery from alcohol or other drug disease should not be subject to legally imposed bans or other barriers based solely on their addiction. These bans should be identified and removed. Recommendations for health care include providing insurance coverage for treatment of alcohol or other drug disease at parity with that for other illnesses; approving claims for the care of any injury sustained by an insured person if under the influence of alcohol or other drugs at the time of injury; and personalizing drug and alcohol treatment to each patient and according to the best scientific protocols and standards of care. Recommendations for employment are that employees that voluntarily seek treatment for alcohol or drug use not be subject to discriminatory actions or dismissal; and past alcohol or drug use should be considered only when relevant to the job. Recommendations for public benefits include people with drug convictions not facing obstacles getting student loans, other grants, scholarships, or access to government training programs; and persons with non-violent drug convictions not being subject to bans on receiving cash assistance and food stamps. Also, public housing agencies and other federally assisted housing should use the discretion given to them in the public housing law to help people get treatment, rather than permanently barring them and their families from housing. People that are disabled as a result of their alcohol or other drug disease should be eligible for Social Security Disability Income and Supplemental Security Income. Decisions involving the custodial status of children should be made in the best interests of a child based on what is happening in the home.