Receipt of disability payments by substance users: mental and physical health correlates.

Document Type

Article, Non peer-reviewed

Publication Date



Since 1997, substance users have received disability benefits only for impairments apart from their substance use disorders. It is hypothesized that substance users currently receiving disability benefits would be more severely compromised, medically and/or psychiatrically, than those not receiving disability. Enrolling a community sample of 330 heroin and cocaine users between January 2002 and January 2004, it was found that individuals who were not receiving disability payments had similar mental health scores, current depressive symptoms scores, and lifetime rates of major depression compared to those receiving payments, but significantly lower rates of bipolar or psychotic disorders and psychiatric hospitalization (p < .01). Physically disabled persons had lower physical function scores and were more likely to be HIV-infected or taking medications regularly (p < .001). The authors conclude that schizophrenia, bipolar disorders, and chronic physical illness, but not major depression, are qualifying substance users for disability benefits. Longitudinal studies of disability status and its effects on the lives of substance users are warranted.