People with substance use disorders have been protected from discrimination under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) since the law’s passage in 1990. Until recently, however, the ADA has been an underutilized tool in advancing the rights of people with substance use disorders. Guidance released by the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) in April 2022, as well as enforcement actions by the DOJ in 2021 and 2022, show that this is beginning to change. This project focuses on establishing the rights and responsibilities associated with the ADA, and envisioning a future where the ADA is used to its full potential to protect people with substance use disorders.

Our Work

The ADA prohibits discrimination against people in recovery from substance use disorder who are not engaging in illegal drug use, including those who are taking legally-obtained medication for opioid use disorder. This project provides resources to clarify the protections afforded by the ADA to people with substance use disorder, such as people who are incarcerated and denied treatment and people who face employment discrimination. Our work identifies a more inclusive path forward that reflects the science of addiction and gathers experts from different disciplines to enhance awareness and support evidence-based policy.

The Americans with Disabilities Act and Substance Use Disorder: Rights, Responsibilities, and Looking Ahead