Alcoholism/Substance Abuse as a Disability? Thoughts?

Posted on: Fri, 01/09/2004 - 8:37am
MommaBear's picture
Joined: 09/23/2002 - 09:00

"For starters, does "alcoholism" qualify as a "disability" in the "reasonable accommodation" sense?
What "accommodations" if any, have you noticed?

How are these accommodations, if there be any, recieved/viewed by the public? Yourself?"

Posted on: Fri, 01/09/2004 - 12:02pm
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Not a good one for me to personally answer Momma Bear, not because I'm an alcoholic or have a substance abuse problem but just because it is an *issue* with me. I believe alcoholism is a *disease* (as they call it) of choice. I believe the person makes the choice to have that drink. If they stopped from having that first drink, this is after knowing that you're an alcoholic, then you wouldn't be a falling down drunk all the time. However.
Having said all of that, and not meaning to offend anyone, I do know that in Ontario, you cannot be fired from your job is you are an alcoholic or drug addict. I believe it is the Ontario Human Rights Commission that would deal with this. It is considered by them, a "disability" and one that you can't lose your job over.
However, many alcoholics/drug addicts are fired from their jobs and do not know that they have any legal recourse.
As everyone here knows, I suffer from migraines. Each position I have held in my life, I have ended up being fired or quitting because of my absenteeism due to my migraines. However, even that I couldn't be fired for. I could have taken a complaint to the Ontario Human Rights Commission based on my migraines and that the company could not fire me because I had them.
Now, having said that, by the time each position was ending, there was so much not great feeling go on on either side because of my lost time due to illness that I never thought to pursue a complaint against anyone. I was sick, they let me go. End of story.
I'll have to check the paperwork I have here about alcoholism (the OHRC paperwork) but I do know that somewhere in law in Ontario, you cannot fire a person because of them being an alcoholic or drug addict. Of course, it repeatedly happens, but the person, if they know it, does have recourse.
To me, is alcoholism/drug addiction a disability? No.
Should accommodations be made for the person? Other than offering rehab (which in Ontario is free, Momma Bear), no.
But again, I'm truly the *wrong* person to ask. I have seen alcoholism destroy too many families and would count my own (mine and my children's) as one of them. [img][/img]
Best wishes! [img][/img]

Posted on: Fri, 01/09/2004 - 1:45pm
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Would this be considered an "accommodation"?
A lot of employers, if finding out an employee is an alcoholic or has a substance abuse problem will send them to rehab while keeping them on the payroll.
A friend of mine in Stayner, she was going out with someone who worked at General Motors. He went to rehab twice for six month long periods due to alcoholism and General Motors kept his job for him and he did receive I think 66.6% of his salary while in rehab.
I worked with a man when I was around 30. He was the plant manager where I worked. I was the assistant to the President and this man reported directly to the President as part of the management team. It took me, innocent that I am, quite awhile to figure out that this person wasn't coming back from lunch drunk, but high. Then, we all handled the telephones at the two different lunch hours and he started to receive persistent phone calls from his drug dealer. Of course, no one wanted to say anything to his boss (my boss) because we weren't management, we were assistants.
He started to miss quite a bit of time and bug up his job. The President eventually found out that he had a problem and what it was exactly. He offered to send him to rehab and keep his position for him. This man, with a stunningly beautiful wife, two beautiful babies, a home, and everything to live for, declined the company's offer.
He went into a downward spiral after leaving the company, but not before taking "trade secrets" to a competitor and committed suicide in a cocaine induced depression. It was terrible.
The company had had compassion and caring for this young man. He lost it all. He lost his life.
Please don't think from my first post that I am not compassionate and caring about people with addictions. He**, I'm a nicotine addict. I am.
Perhaps it was just bad timing for me to try to answer your question right now, but I do still stand by my belief that although alcoholics/drug addicts are protected, to a degree, in the workplace because of their *disability*, I think it's a matter of choice. I just know that sounds really really harsh and terrible and I don't mean to sound like that.
Best wishes! [img][/img]

Posted on: Sun, 01/11/2004 - 4:31am
KarenH's picture
Joined: 09/21/2002 - 09:00

Actually I think that the question should be more...
Is ADDICTION considered a disability?
One can be addicted to many things-gambling, food, cigarettes, alcohol, drugs, sex, you name it. Any one of those things can wreak havoc in one's life.
My own, personal answer to that? No. I think it would be a "slippery slope" to start picking and choosing which one of those falls under a "disability".
Those addictions can be only symptoms of much bigger problems-I've known people who used drugs to cover up a developing mental illness, people who over eat because of depression/low self esteem, people who drink to mask pain from bad relationships.
So no, I don't think they are disabilities.

Posted on: Sun, 01/11/2004 - 7:41am
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I'm going to see if I can find the Ontario Human Rights Commission paperwork tonight and where it specifically says that you can't fire someone because they're an alcoholic or drug addict.
See, Karen H., you've raised an interesting question or thought. Are all addictions the same?
I'm a cigarette addict and I certainly don't consider that a disability. It's a matter of choice (and a bad one, obviously).
I also believe drinking and drugging is a matter of choice and that's what enangers me, but still, there are accommodations made by certain employers at least for people that do have alcohol/drug addictions (for example, General Motors as I mentioned above).
Also, yes, alcohol and drug addiction are often used by individuals to mask mental illnesses. Often also, mental illness cannot be detected in people because they are drunk or high (and in a continual state thereof) so the psychiatrist (or other professional) is unable to tell if the person is clinically depressed or if they are depressed because they are drinking a depressant (alcohol). Or, is a person manic in their *regular* frame of mind or only manic when they're using cocaine? You get the idea.
I knew one person who went to seek psychiatric help and was told flat out that they would have to stop drinking and drugging before the psychiatrist could even begin to help because the psychiatrist could not make a *proper* diagnosis until the person was clean.
My SIL even, apparently, I didn't see it, it was before my time, she would actually function *better* when she was abusing alcohol.
A vicious cycle.
In to-day's local free newspaper, there was an ad about a meeting that Social Services is having about the Ontario Disability Support Program targeted at (to?) schizophrenics. If you're schizophrenic, attend this meeting so you can learn how to apply for ODSP if you haven't already. I thought it was interesting that it should pop up now when this discussion is going on.
Are there different severities of mental illness (oh, sorry, that's another thread)?
My answer would be yes.
Best wishes! [img][/img]

Posted on: Sun, 01/11/2004 - 9:30am
KarenH's picture
Joined: 09/21/2002 - 09:00

From what I know from the kids I've dealt with, the answer to the different severities of mental illness, I'd also say yes. [img][/img] (but that's a different thread)
DH and I had a discussion around this topic as well, and he made a very interesting point. He said that a disibility is "not self inflicted". Apparently that is the criteria for it (he's very up on the latest book knowledge, you know since he just finished his social work degree). So something like obesity, alcohol/drug abuse, etc is not considered a disability for that reason. If you are learning disabled, have ADHD, a mental illness, a limb missing, a disease, etc. THEN it is considered a disability. Makes sense to me.

Posted on: Sun, 01/11/2004 - 10:29am
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Karen H., I still have to check the OHRC paperwork. However, what about the genetic component to alcoholism/drug addiction? What about alcoholics/drug addicts who say that they have a disease and that it is, in fact, a progressive one?
(Caution: I may or may not be playing Devil's Advocate)
My birth-Mother was an alcoholic. I immediately inherited a 50% chance of becoming an alcoholic. Then, because I was raised in an environment where there was also an alcoholic (I won't say what parent, out of respect), my chances then went up to 75% of becoming an alcoholic.
Has anyone here ever answered Alcoholics Anonymous' questionnaire on whether or not you are an alcoholic? It is quite interesting (I'll try to find the questionnaire).
Does saying that alcoholism is a *disease* excuse the alcoholic from continuing to drink and wreak havoc? However, I can attest to the fact that it is "something" and it certainly is progressive if it is not stopped dead in it's tracks.
What do I personally believe? If it is a *disease* which I take offense to, because it's not like the person has cancer, unless it's being classed as a mental disease, which it never is, it's always labeled a physical one, I believe it is a disease of choice. The person has the choice whether to pick up that drink or not. The person has the choice whether to take that particular drug or not. Just as I have the choice whether or not I am going to light a cigarette or not.
However, if you look at alcoholics and how they are different than *regular* drinkers, why is that? Is it something different in their brains? Bodies? Why is it some people are wired so that when they have one drink they can't stop?
Then, as an extension, the alcoholic that says they want to become a "social drinker" - ain't gonna happen buddy, without extensive behavioural therapy and even then I remain skeptical.
Totally off topic - if you look at homeless people, how many are alcoholic, drug addicted, mentally ill, simply down on their luck, or a combination of these things?
We have our town junkie here. It's actually not very funny at all. The woman is 32 years old and covered from head to foot in scabs. It looks as though she has AIDS. People are afraid of her. The gay friend that I worked for running the antique warehouse, I asked him why he didn't worry about her coming into the store and stealing things when he worried about other people on the street coming into the shop.
He knew her from high school. He said that she was the most beautiful girl in high school and was the daughter of a well respected doctor here.
I learned her name through my friend and even when she was totally out of it, if I passed her on the street downtown I would say Hi, So and So. She was so pleasant and well mannered even if she was higher than a kite. You could tell that she had had a *good* upbringing that had been destroyed by literally years of drug abuse.
One night, we were walking home, the kids and I, and Ember was afraid to pass by her. I explained to Em, as best I could, that she didn't have to worry about that lady (although I'm not sure I'd say that about all junkies to Em), that the lady was very sick and that she took bad drugs but Ember didn't have to be afraid.
Then, we moved "up here" and I started to see her around my neighbourhood rather than downtown (remembering downtown = junkies most anywhere). One day, we were both waiting for the bus and I talked to her. She got on the bus and she was talking out loud but not because she was mentally ill, just because she was probably high and everyone on the bus was staring at her. Later that morning, she passed by me as I was having a coffee and cigarette at a coffee shop patio and she said hi (remembering she had spoken with me at the bus stop). I asked her if she wanted a coffee.
She sat down and talked to me and you know what? She wasn't mentally ill. She was a junkie. My DH had said that he had heard that she was mentally ill and masked it with drugs. I said, no, Ron, she's not. She's a bright, would have been beautiful, woman, who is a junkie. I asked her when we had the coffee that day if she had ever been in rehab and she said more times than she could count. She is covered in scars that look like she took a knife to herself on her arms and it's just really sad.
Thinking about that girl, well woman, would I say she was disabled? Yes, actually, I would. She can never stay clean long enough to do anything.
You can see where I waffle totally on this whole *issue*, can't you?
I'll check the OHRC paperwork tonight hopefully.
Best wishes! [img][/img]

Posted on: Sun, 01/11/2004 - 10:37am
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Karen H., okay, a disability is something that is not "self inflicted". I understand what you're saying.
I have not done any extensive reading re mental illness (and yes, a different thread) in twenty years. But if you look at MPS (multiple personality syndrome), does the original person not develop multiple personalities in order to protect themselves from something in their lives? Is that self-inflicted? Or, when your brain does it for you, for protection, is that not considered self-inflicted? (I'm trying to wrap my brain around this one).
I also believe that schizophrenia can be caused by one's environment (won't point the fingers but would look at my SIL as a good case in point [img][/img] ). Was it her mind's way of protecting itself?
So, if the mind/brain self inflict the disability that's different than the person inflicting the thing that may be perceived as a disability by some?
Best wishes! [img][/img]

Posted on: Sun, 01/11/2004 - 4:18pm
KarenH's picture
Joined: 09/21/2002 - 09:00

LOLOL Cindy-I'm not doctor! :P I have no idea, I'm simply telling you what DH, who has all the training, said.
In a conversation I just had with hubby he said that MPS is self induced because one can't cope with their environment, so their personality (there's a dominant and a subservient) splits. It's considered a personality disorder.
Schizophrenia is caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain. (biological-psychiatric) Recent research has linked it to genetic disposition.
These aren't opinions, these are in the DSM 4. (American Diagnostic Manual) [img][/img]

Posted on: Mon, 01/12/2004 - 12:59pm
anonymous's picture
Joined: 05/28/2009 - 16:42

Actually a person with alcoholism has an allergy to alcohol.
Someone very close in my family is an alcoholic. Any time this person uses products with a high amount of alcohol they break out and itch excessively - they also tend to "crave" the alcohol more.
I believe wholeheartedly that it's an allergy with high risk of being inherited. The person that has alcoholisim that I know, practically their entire family are alkie's (no disrespect intended), and this person was not raised with these people, so it's definately a gene thing and not an environment thing - this person has also passed it on to their children, who are also alcoholics.
Now I can't explain why it is "craved" whereas other allergic individuals don't "crave" their offending foods - maybe that's where the disease takes place?? I don't know.
As for mental illness - I also have a brother who is mentally handicapped (since birth), whom I have gaurdinship over. He recieves disability child benefits from my fathers record. He recieves child benefits although he is 36 yrs old. Recently, SS lost his file and we had to reconstruct his file. During this process I pulled medical records from physciatrist that my mother had taken him to, and they classified him in several areas. Organic brain disorder and mild sciztophryina (sp??). At that time that didn't consider him disabled - but my belief is b/c my mother was still alive and they knew he would be cared for regardless (my father died when he was 16 and she was trying to continue death benefits for him past the age of 18) - Right after my mother passed, I applied for SS for him and immediately recv'd benefits. And they have him classified as "not believed to improve".
Now, his brain order has been since birth (caused by lack of oxygen at birth).
His type of mental illness is considered a disability.
I personally can not see how peanut allergy, alcoholism and/or mental illness relate to each other.
Now, I assume this question was raised due to accomadations - in that case, IMO, disabilities should be case by case determinations for accomadations. I accomadate my child differently than others here with the same allergy - should their be a precedent set? Maybe so, how do we determine what the precedent or how "extreme" should the accomadations be - depends on who will be benefiting from them - if there is one child - it's what detriment that child needs - if there are 3 children w/different "comfort zones" - then it should be set to the tighter zone. Most medical issues in school are handled on a case by case basis - PA shouldn't be any different.
If this question wasn't raised for that reason, then I am way off base. [img][/img]

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