Amend ADA Legislation to Include Individuals Suffering from Substance Abuse Disorder

Amend ADA Legislation to Include Individuals Suffering from Substance Abuse Disorder

March 7, 2022
Signatures: 51Next Goal: 100
Support now

Why this petition matters

(Read the BOLD sections for a brief highlight of context)

Sometimes when a traumatized person reaches out for help they get taken advantage of because victimized energy only seeks to further itself. This is quite unfortunate for the individuals in this class because they tend to already share commonality in an inability to make their voices heard or advocate for themselves.

 In 1964 the American Disabilities Act to provide equal rights under the law for those with Disabilities through the designation of a protected class and prohibiting discrimination against them became the 11th Amendment to our U.S. Constitution.

After much debate and litigation, in 1998 Section 504 and the ADA was implemented to define disability as (1) a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits a major life activity; (2) a record of such an impairment; or (3) being regarded as having such an impairment. 29 U.S.C. § 705(9)(B); 42 U.S.C. § 12102(1).

But although Addiction definitely meets the criteria of a disability, Sec. 12114 of the ADA regarding Illegal use of drugs and alcohol made this crippling distinction:

(a) Qualified individual with a disability

... qualified individual with a disability shall not include any employee or applicant who is currently engaging in the illegal use of drugs, when the covered entity acts on the basis of such use.

Then in 1999, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), one of the top leading authorities on the subject as the defining standard for mental health diagnoses, identified manifestations of Substance Use Disorder(s) as having the underlying primary psychopathology of a primary mental health disorder. 

Until now, there have been many changes to the ADA to define and redefine the term disability and determine what equal protection actually means for those in this class however, those suffering from Substance Abuse Disorders are still excluded from that protection.

As a female veteran struggling with both childhood and military trauma I began using substances to minimize the symptoms of PTSD in order to continue functioning as contributing member of society upon my separation from the Navy. 

My love of and dedication to education, social service, and advocacy comes from my profound understanding of and compassion for humanity as a whole. The substance abuse disorder I developed actually allowed me to refuse to settle into being a victim and continue to fulfill the responsibilities and meet the expectations of a vocation that contributed to some of my life's satisfaction and self worth.

But none of my experience, apparent aptitude, verified appropriate work ethic and behavior, nor the absence of signs or evidence of any type of misconduct carried any weight whatsoever once people learned of my battle with Substance Abuse and a positive drug screening was obtained.

Regardless of my consistent pattern of behavior and current ability, the existence of an illegal substance in my system would continue to allow others to label me as an inadequate individual.

Not only have I endured mistreatment and discrimination but I have stood by many friends and associates and countless others as they experienced hardship due to Substance Abuse Disorders just trying to survive when their employment was terminated after several months of impressive performance because an employer learned about their disorder. We have been ridiculed, refused help, and otherwise intentionally harmed by professionals in the HealthCare System. We have experienced limitation, reduction, and withholding of services by the Department of Social Services, Harrased and Attacked by Law Enforcement, misrepresented and marginalized by the Justice System, and completely disregarded by the general public.

Individuals who suffer from Substance Abuse Disorder are as different in level of severity and ability to behave in a manner acceptable to societal standards as individuals with Autism, Anxiety, and OCD but because the ADA legislative text does not reflect the current research and understanding we've aquired about this disease, those who have this disorder are not only deprived of equal protection under the law, in many cases they are singled out as a class and expressly excluded from many of the very same rights and services afforded their peers.

This type of distinction written into the letter of the law subverts the integrity of the very same standard of organization and procedure for interaction with those in the Disabled Community the ADA sought to regulate in 1964. All of this makes it possible for those who have Substance Abuse Disorder to continue to be denied adequate health coverage, employment opportunities, equal access to housing and countless more social programs services, including the right to parent. 

Changing the legislative text regarding this matter will not only begin to level the playing field for individuals actively seeking treatment, but also help prevent compounding the trauma of those who have already suffered too much by penalizing discrimination in the future.

Support now
Signatures: 51Next Goal: 100
Support now