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Can substance abuse prevent you from getting disability benefits?

Substance abuse, whether it involves alcohol or drugs, can cause or worsen any number of mental and physical disorders and impairments. Sometimes, people use alcohol and drugs to “self-medicate” in order to deal with mental or physical issues they already have. They too often become addicted to these substances.

If a person has a mental or physical impairment that was caused by substance abuse, can they get Social Security Disability (SSD) benefits? It depends.

If a person is no longer abusing alcohol and/or drugs, they may be able to receive benefits for certain disorders that resulted from their previous substance abuse. Even if a person is still using drugs or consuming alcohol, they may be able to get benefits if stopping the use of these substances wouldn’t significantly improve their condition.

According to the Social Security Administration (SSA), if a person has medical evidence of alcoholism or drug abuse, “we will evaluate which of your current physical and mental limitations, upon which we based our current disability determination, would remain if you stopped using drugs or alcohol and then determine whether any or all of your remaining limitations would be disabling.”

This can be difficult to prove for some conditions like anxiety disorders, depression and personality disorders. These conditions can lead to substance abuse. However, drugs and alcohol can make these conditions worse.

The process for seeking SSD benefits can be complicated and frustrating — particularly if you’re dealing with a mental health issue. That’s why it’s wise to seek the help of an experienced attorney to fight for your rights and guide you through the process.

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