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Author: Justin Mckibben
The vast majority of people struggling with addiction are actually employed. In fact, too many people actually never try to get help for their addiction because they think that having a job means they are not that far gone. However, being a ‘functioning addict’ does not make you any less addicted. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) actually noted some time ago that 76% of people with substance abuse problems are employed. Unfortunately, too many of them also avoid getting treatment because they fear doing so could actually hurt their careers.
What many may not realize is how things like the Americans with Disabilities Act helps addicts with treatment by protecting them from discrimination.
What Is the Americans with Disabilities Act?
The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, commonly referred to as the ADA, is a civil rights law prohibiting discrimination based on disability. It protects individuals with disabilities and guarantees equal opportunity for individuals with disabilities in:
- Public accommodations
- State and local government services
People with disabilities deserve the same rights and opportunities as everyone else, and the ADA is designed to ensure they have them.
One thing that makes the ADA so important is that it requires covered employers to provide reasonable accommodations to employees with disabilities, and imposes accessibility requirements on public accommodations.
How Does ADA Define Disability?
To be clear, employees undergoing treatment for drug or alcohol addiction have always been covered under the ADA. The ADA defines a disability as:
A physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, a history of having such an impairment, or being regarded as having such an impairment.
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) was charged with interpreting the 1990 law, and ended up EEOC developing regulations limiting an individual’s impairment to one that “severely or significantly restricts” a major life activity.
Later on the ADAAA directed the EEOC to amend this regulation and replace “severely or significantly” with “substantially limits”.
The ADA added a few extra As around 18 years later.
In 2008, the Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act (ADAAA) was signed into law and became effective on January 1, 2009. The implementation of the ADAAA made a number of significant changes to the definition of disability. The ADAAA also added to the ADA examples of “major life activities” including, but not limited to:
- Caring for oneself
- Performing manual tasks
They also included the operation of several specified major bodily functions. If we look at all of these criteria, it is not that surprising that alcoholism and drug addiction would qualify.
How Does Americans with Disabilities Act Help Addicts?
Addiction stigma is one of the hardest hurdles for most people to have to overcome when trying to find addiction treatment. A lot of people never even seek out the help because they are afraid their job or career would be jeopardized. But the ADA helps alcoholics and addicts by protecting them.
According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s (EEOC’s) Technical Assistance Manual: Title I of the ADA,
“A person who currently uses alcohol is not automatically denied protection simply because of the alcohol use. An alcoholic is a person with a disability under the ADA and may be entitled to consideration of accommodation, if s/he is qualified to perform the essential functions of a job. However, an employer may discipline, discharge or deny employment to an alcoholic whose use of alcohol adversely affects job performance or conduct to the extent that s/he is not ‘qualified.’ ”
While ADA regulations may permit allowances for alcoholism, illegal drug use is never protected. However, addicts who are recovering are protected under the ADA.
According to the EEOC’s manual:
“Persons addicted to drugs, but who are no longer using drugs illegally and are receiving treatment for drug addiction or who have been rehabilitated successfully, are protected by the ADA from discrimination on the basis of past drug addiction.”
So if you were to take a drug test and it shows that you are using an illicit substance you disqualify yourself from ADA protections.
How it Helps with Treatment
Fear of losing a job or sabotaging your financial future is a huge obstacle for most people who desperately need addiction treatment but are afraid to ask for help. Too many people think they will be black-listed or discriminated against for their struggles with drugs or alcohol. Breaking the stigma is essential to helping more people recover.
The ADA helps by treating alcoholics and addicts like people suffering from an illness or disability instead of punishing them. It protects your right to get help, as long as you don’t violate the policies of your profession. Therefore, it doesn’t necessarily protect people actively using drugs or alcohol. You can still face the consequences that come with it despite the ADA protections.
If you are attending a rehabilitation program, or you have successfully completed a program of rehabilitation, you are covered under the ADA. To find out more about these and other protections, look into the opportunities you are eligible for with the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 (FMLA) offered through your company.
Discrimination is always wrong, and discrimination against people recovering from substance use disorder is no different. People who suffer from drug or alcohol addiction need to be supported, especially when it comes to maintaining the aspects of their life that help them build a future. Know your rights and be aware of the protections in place so that you don’t put it off until it is too late. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free now.
CALL NOW 1-800-951-6135
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Author: Justin Mckibben
This is arguably one of the most difficult questions to answer regarding drug addiction without being met with contention and passionate opposition. The troubling part is, despite the fact that the medical community, including the American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) has taken a strong stance on classifying addiction as a disease, others still argue that it is a condition that only exists out of lack of personal responsibility or moral willpower. Stigma against addicts was the driving force behind the way the world understood addiction for so long that now it is an uphill battle at times trying to detach from those old ideas.
Beyond the assumptions most people adopt as fact, science and psychology have taught us that addiction is far more complex and misunderstood than most can imagine.
Still, the great question is the “why” of it all, which is a far more debatable way to ask the question than the “how” of it. Even more debate could surround the perceived motivations, and more controversy comes from the “addiction is a choice” conversation. At first, let us look at what the research tells us.
Why Do People Become Addicted to Drugs: The Brain
Now first, let us look at how addiction is defined according to medical science, offering the evidence from the ASAM.
The American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) gave the most recent definition of addiction as a chronic brain disorder after a four-year process involving more than 80 experts. The ASAM definition notes that two decades of advancements in neuroscience convinced ASAM officials that addiction should be
defined by the activity present in the brain.
For instance, research has shown that addiction affects the brain’s reward circuitry to the point that memories of previous experiences with food, alcohol and other drugs or even sex can activate cravings and induce more addictive behaviors. Also, the brain circuitry that governs impulse control and judgment is altered in the brains of addicts.
Dr. Raju Hajela, former president of the Canadian Society of Addiction Medicine and chair of the ASAM committee on addiction’s new definition states:
“The disease creates distortions in thinking, feelings and perceptions, which drive people to behave in ways that are not understandable to others around them,”
“Simply put, addiction is not a choice. Addictive behaviors are a manifestation of the disease, not a cause.”
Dr. Hajela did, however, add that the idea of choice is not completely off the table, but that it is not about choosing addiction, but choosing recovery.
To be fair, there are also neuro-scientists like Marc Lewis, a psychologist and former addict himself; author of a new book “The Biology of Desire: Why Addiction is Not a Disease” who believe that the brain is definitively reshaped by addiction, but do not think it should be classified as a ‘disease’. These scientists recommend cognitive behavioral therapy as a way to reshape the brain and redirect its systems into less self-destructive patterns. While they do disagree with the specifics of the ‘disease’ term, they stand by the neuroscience of addiction.
Why Do People Become Addicted to Drugs: Chronic Medical Condition
Further exploring the definition of addiction as presented by the medical and scientific communities, we find that the American College of Physicians (ACP) calls addiction a “substance use disorder” and states that addictions to drugs should be considered a serious public health issue. The ACP states that substance use disorder is a chronic medical condition.
Several agencies have supported this definition of addiction, including:
- The American Medical Association
- The American Psychiatric Association
- The Institute of Medicine
- The World Health Organization
And if we are going to get really technical, the basic definition of “disease” in the Merriam-Webster dictionary is:
-a condition of the living animal or plant body or of one of its parts that impairs normal functioning and is typically manifested by distinguishing signs and symptoms
Examining this logic, it is clear that addiction meets all the criteria to be considered a disease. In fact, most definitions of disease are pretty spot-on with the nature of substance use disorder.
Why Do People Become Addicted to Drugs: The Formula
Now that we have explored how addiction can qualify as a disease, let us look into the “why” of it. Some insist there is an ‘addiction gene’ that dooms people to addiction. Others say the reason people become addicted is because of their circumstances in life.
One might say there is a kind of ‘formula’ for addiction, but it would be one like X+Y=Addiction.
Research has pointed toward biological differences that make people more or less susceptible to addiction. Certain genes, or combinations of genes, may result in someone’s brain and body developing dependence much faster than others with the same consumption.
So when someone says they drank the same as someone else, or did the same amount of drugs for the same amount of time, we need to understand that it doesn’t mean they will have the same reaction to those drugs. One of the main arguments people use to oppose the idea of addiction being a disease is comparing an addict to other people who drink and use drugs without being addicts… but science has shown us that is not how it works.
Then there is epigenetics, the study of functional, and sometimes inherited, changes in the regulation of gene activity that are not dependent on gene sequencing. In short, it means to examine how environmental exposures or choices people make can actually remodel (mark) the structure of DNA at the cell level or even at the level of the whole organism.
Here is where we openly admit to the actions (i.e. choices) of individuals to influence the development of addiction. Someone’s environment and the way they react to it does contribute to developing an addiction. In general, research has shown that an individual’s health is the result of interactions between their genes and their environment. Of course the likelihood of addiction can be increased by factors like:
Studies from the Nation Institute on Drug Addiction (NIDA) support that an individual’s surroundings also have a particular impact on drug use. According to the NIDA,
“Exposure to drugs or stress in a person’s social or cultural environment can alter both gene expression and gene function, which, in some cases, may persist throughout a person’s life. Research also suggests that genes can play a part in how a person responds to his or her environment, placing some people at higher risk for disease than others.”
When someone starts addressing external issues with drugs or alcohol, it magnifies the problem. Those who are exposed to a different life-style will also have a different risk of developing a substance use disorder. This impacts those epigenetics we were talking about.
In the end, we can say that people use drugs and alcohol as a solution. It is the resource they turned to for escape, for excitement or for a feeling of ease and contentment. It was a powerful element they were able to reach to, that ultimately rewired their brain and changed their DNA.
Why Do People Become Addicted to Drugs?
Some people will say that the Y of X+Y=Addiction model proves that addiction is a choice, not a disease. Well, to argue that choices can still create diseases, we can point out that in 2014 it was noted for the first time in history, “lifestyle diseases” killed more people than communicable diseases. Health care providers and public health officials have recognized for a very long time that unhealthy lifestyle behaviors are the root cause of several diseases, including:
- Type 2 diabetes
- Cardiovascular disease
- Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
- Some forms of cancer
Choices influence these conditions, which the medical community categorized as modifiable risk factors, including:
- Poor dietary habits
- Physical inactivity
- Alcohol overuse
People would argue still that someone who uses hard drugs knows the high risk and chooses. Well, don’t people who eat foods with low nutritional value and over-indulge in smoking while never exercising know the risks?
Why do people become addicted to drugs? There are so many factors unique to the individual with that formula. Genetics, environment, actions, along with physical and mental health all play a part in how a substance use disorder develops, just like numerous other conditions. That is precisely why it is so important we start to recognize addiction as a disease; as a chronic medical condition and one that people should not be shamed and stigmatized for. All these elements of substance use disorder literally rewire the brain and rewrite the DNA.
Though this may seem like a lot of information, it covers barely a fraction of the research on this subject. There is no easy “why” to it, but there is enough to know why recovery is so important. Real recovery is not just removing the drugs, but also working to create new coping skills. Recovery takes work, and a great foundation can make all the difference.
Understanding addiction is one thing. But learning how to make the life in recovery that you deserve takes a strong beginning. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free now.
CALL NOW 1-800-951-6135
Author: Justin Mckibben
This article is probably going to draw a bit of attention, and I’m sure that there will be a great deal of opinions seeing as how I have personally witnessed how popular ‘vapes’ and ‘e-cigs’ have become, especially in the recovery community. I have friends who dedicate more time and money to customizing their ‘vape mods’ and mixing their ‘vape juices’ than anything else, and it is kind of funny to see this hobby sprout up out of nowhere and become a notable trend. With all the innovations, artsy styles, and various flavors electronic cigarettes are making a lot of waves, but is it possible this new fad is actually a gate-way drug that is just disguised as a helpful alternative to nicotine?
Studies on the E-Cigs
One study conducted some time ago by the University of California, San Francisco found that using these devices is actually associated with the heavier use of conventional cigarettes. One of the lead authors of that study, Stan Glantz who is the director of the Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education at the University of California, expressed growing concern with the increase of e-cigarette use among adolescents.
“We are witnessing the beginning of a new phase of the nicotine epidemic and a new route to nicotine addiction for kids.”
In a more recent study that has been published in the New England Journal of Medicine, neuroscientist Eric Kandel and his wife, Dr. Denise Kandel are raising a few eye-brows, red-flags, and arguments after they issued claims following their data that warned readers and consumers alike that electronic cigarettes, vapor cigarettes and their variations, are very likely to be considered undetected gateway drugs for adolescents.
Based off the findings of the two researchers on recent studies performed on mice, the results reveal that e-cigarettes prime the brain for the use of illegal drugs like cocaine and marijuana. As e-cigarettes deliver highly addictive “pure nicotine” to the brain, the chemistry of the brain was altered in all the mice that the researchers used for the study. These noted alterations did what these scientists say geared up the animals brains for a cocaine addiction. Professor Kandel went on to explain,
“One drug alters the brain’s circuitry in a way that enhances the effects of a subsequent drug.”
Basically saying that by adolescence using e-cigs or vapes, they are conditioning their brains so that when the individual comes into contact with other illicit drugs, it is already more vulnerable and likely to develop a serious substance abuse habit or life threatening addiction.
Cause for Concern
Kandel and his wife, both from Columbia University, wrote extensively on the subject of the heightened risk to young people and how using electronic cigarettes can affect the developing mind and precondition it for using more dangerous drugs. At the end of their report in the New England Journal of Medicine, the two blatantly caused a bit of a surprised uproar when they wrote:
“Our society needs to be concerned about the effect of e-cigarettes on the brain, especially in young people, and the potential for creating a new generation of persons addicted to nicotine. The effects we found in adult mice are likely to be even stronger in adolescent animals. Priming with nicotine has been shown to lead to enhanced cocaine-induced locomotor activity and increased initial self-administration of cocaine among adolescent, but not adult, rats… Nicotine clearly acts as a gateway drug on the brain.”
So one might say that the real target of this last accusation is aimed more toward nicotine itself and not e-cigs, so technically big tobacco should be more concerned and vapor cigarettes should actually be safer, right? Now even though the typical e-cigarette user is a long-term smoker who has been unable to quit, more and more young people, who may not even have been smokers initially, are taking up the habit as it has evolved into a popular trend with all the variations in styles, and asking about someone’s ‘vape mod’ is apparently a good ice-breaker.
One huge problem is that nicotine has a much more powerful and influential effect on the adolescent brain, which according to this study will lead to later problems with being susceptible to drugs. Professor Kandel, who in 2000 shared the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for his research on the physiological basis of memory, stands firm on his assessment of the situation. Even more disturbing is that many people actually exploit vapes and e-cigs to consume other drugs because they make it easier to fly under the radar while smoking narcotics in public places.
So the question is, how much can actually be said about the contribution of e-cigs and vapes to the development of addiction or addictive qualities in adolescence who use them? The study published is geared toward identifying the vape and e-cig as a possible epidemic that will end up creating more addicts than ever. Either way this just goes to show that as new drug threats are exposed, along with other health risks being realized in some substances people currently exploit, there is a greater need than ever for awareness as to the devastation of the disease of addiction, and more attention needs to be given to the possibility or recovery. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135. We want to help. You are not alone.
By Cheryl Steinberg
The nation’s top drug-control official, Michael Botticelli, just might be the person for the job, considering his first-hand experience with substance abuse.
As the Nation’s acting drug czar, Botticelli is tasked with spearheading the Obama administration’s drug policy, which is largely established on the idea of shifting the practice from the criminal justice system as the go-to to helping people with addiction by making treatment and support programs more accessible to them. Traditionally, the position has been held by law enforcement officials, a military general and physicians. But for now, it is occupied by a recovering alcoholic.
Botticelli’s story is the epitome of the policy, and a view that he credits with saving his life.
Botticelli, 56, the nation’s acting drug czar is a recovering alcoholic who has been sober for 25 years. He decided to seek help and recovery after experiencing a series of events, common to alcoholics in their active addiction, namely waking up handcuffed to a hospital bed after a drunken-driving accident and a financial collapse that left him facing eviction.
A New Strategy
The White House Office of National Drug Control Policy approach has been, Botticelli said, a “very clear pivot to, kind of, really dealing with this as a public-health-related issue of looking at prevention and treatment.” He heads an office that has now shifted away from the antiquated and highly-flawed “war on drugs” ideology and is instead expanding access to treatment for addicts and preventing drug use through education.
Previously, Botticelli was director of Massachusetts’ Bureau of Substance Abuse Services and is currently trying to expand on some of the programs he enacted at the Massachusetts Department of Public Health. Programs such as allowing police to carry naloxone — a drug commonly known as Narcan that can reverse an opiate overdose — and helping people who have completed treatment find housing and jobs are his focus as acting drug czar.
After several hardships including financial ruin and having his license suspended due to a drunken driving accident, Botticelli was finally ready to get help.
When he received an eviction notice, he called his brother for support. It was during that phone call that Botticelli’s brother asked if him was an alcoholic. “I finally said yes,” he said. “I remember distinctly thinking to myself, ‘If I say I’m an alcoholic, there’s no going back.’ ”
A friend brought him to his first 12 Step meeting.
“That’s the first time that I raised my hand and said that my name was Michael, and I was an alcoholic, and that I needed help,” he said. “At that point, people kind of rally around you.”
Botticelli took suggestions by staying in the middle, attending meeting after meeting, and changing people, places, and things. He said he learned something then that has guided him since: Identify with people who have a problem, but don’t compare yourself.
“When I first came here, all I wanted to do was not drink and have my problems go away,” he said, choking up. “I’m standing here 25 years later, working at the White House. And if you had asked me 25 years ago when I came to my first meeting here if that was a possibility, I would’ve said you’re crazy. But I think it just demonstrates what the power of recovery is.”
Has alcohol become a problem for you? Are you drinking just to feel normal? Have you ever experienced “the shakes” or any other withdrawal symptoms when you try to go without drinking? These are signs that you may have a drinking problem, alcohol dependence, or alcohol addiction issue. The good news is that help is available and that recovery is possible. Life can be amazing when you recover from your addiction. Call us toll-free at 1-800-951-6135 to speak directly with an Addiction Specialist.
For those addicts who struggle with the abuse of prescription pills, especially powerful painkillers, it is an uphill battle trying to find treatment and escape out of that vicious cycle and into recovery. Discomfort doesn’t even come close to articulating some of the pain that is involved in detoxing from painkillers cold turkey, and the longer you have been using the worse it gets. So when you throw into the mix a legit medical problem that consists of a fair amount of pain, the concept of giving up the only thing that you believe can help you because it is causing you a different kind of pain can be terrifying. Here are 5 reasons recovery is so scary for prescription pill addicts with legit medical problems.
- Afraid of the pain of detox
For prescription pill addicts, the thought of detox is scary enough. When you add the pain of detox to a regularly scheduled agony from medical problems it only makes it harder to stick through that detox process without giving up, and many addicts who use pain killers have a hard time telling the difference between their own pains and the discomforts caused by withdrawals.
- Afraid detox will make medical problem worse
Sometimes when someone with a serious medical condition considers the idea of going to treatment for use of a prescription pill that has developed into a serious addiction they are afraid that the physical toll taken on the body from the detoxification process will actually create more complications with their current condition. Especially if their condition is the actual reason why they have been prescribed the medication in the first place, the addict can become even more worried that without it their problem will progress.
- Afraid of being ‘black listed’
A lot of times a prescription pill addict will avoid going to treatment or getting involved in their own recovery because they are worried that when they admit to having a serious problem with narcotics and abusing their medications that they will no longer be able to be prescribed medications. Many addicts believe that by going to treatment they are automatically ‘black-listed’ from being able to receive specific medications and they are scared that if they do so and their medical problem persists that they will no longer be able to get the treatment for that condition. They may fear that once they admit to a drug problem that doctors will assume in the future that they are just trying to manipulate the system in order to get these medications, when they really do have a more serious problem.
- Afraid of new medications
When taken off of you prescribed medication to try and resolve an issue with substance abuse, there can be some fear in recovery that your new medication may not be as helpful or healthy as you had hoped. It is possible that these new medications may not be as effective, or they may include their own list of side-effects or long-term effects that make them just as detrimental as the original medication you were taking.
- Afraid of relapses
Probably the worst fear of prescription pill addicts with legit medical conditions in recovery is relapse. Once in recovery a prescription pill addict will probably start off with a pretty legit fear of their condition because if they know already that they have issues with substance abuse and painkillers then it is understandable when they are hesitant to be prescribed new medications to help with their health problems because they are not familiar with the effects of these medications. Being an addict in recovery who has a legit medical issue and must be on some kind of medication, it can seem scary to have to remain vigilant as to your medications. At the end of the day though, all addicts must maintain self-awareness and vigilance.
For those with medical issues, the fear of getting off harmful medications can seem scary when you don’t know how else to navigate your illness without the help of your prescriptions. Some addicts don’t realize how much worse their illness may actually be as a result of the medications they abuse, or how it may be as simple as a new medication that could mean the difference between addiction and recovery, which for most means life or death. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135