US Department of Education NIDRR Technical Assistance Program

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Chapter 2: Individuals With Disabilities

III-2.3000 Drug addiction as an impairment.

Drug addiction is an impairment under the ADA. A public accommodation generally, however, may base a decision to withhold services or benefits in most cases on the fact that an addict is engaged in the current and illegal use of drugs.

What is "illegal use of drugs"? Illegal use of drugs means the use of one or more drugs, the possession or distribution of which is unlawful under the Controlled Substances Act. It does not include use of controlled substances pursuant to a valid prescription or other uses that are authorized by the Controlled Substances Act or other Federal law. Alcohol is not a "controlled substance," but alcoholism is a disability.

What is "current use"? "Current use" is the illegal use of controlled substances that occurred recently enough to justify a reasonable belief that a person's drug use is current or that continuing use is a real and ongoing problem. Therefore, a private entity should review carefully all the facts surrounding its belief that an individual is currently taking illegal drugs to ensure that its belief is a reasonable one.

Does title III protect drug addicts who no longer take controlled substances? Yes. Title III prohibits discrimination against drug addicts based solely on the fact that they previously illegally used controlled substances. Protected individuals include persons who have successfully completed a supervised drug rehabilitation program or have otherwise been rehabilitated successfully and who are not engaging in current illegal use of drugs. Additionally, discrimination is prohibited against an individual who is currently participating in a supervised rehabilitation program and is not engaging in current illegal use of drugs. Finally, a person who is erroneously regarded as engaging in current illegal use of drugs is protected.

Is drug testing permitted under the ADA? Yes. Public accommodations may utilize reasonable policies or procedures, including but not limited to drug testing, designed to ensure that an individual who formerly engaged in the illegal use of drugs is not now engaging in current illegal use of drugs.