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How to Handle a Substance-Abuse History while Job Searching

Your resume shouldn't disclose previous substance abuse history. Substance abuse is a disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act. If you’re recovered from the addiction, you’re entitled to all the protection under the Act. If you’re still abusing a substance, such as alcohol or illegal narcotics, you’re not covered by the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Here are some tips for dealing with a substance-abuse history during a job search:

  • Be careful when deciding which information you put on a job application — remember that it’s a legal form and that lies can come back to haunt you.

  • In your resume, you can cover gaps in your work history with an Illness and Recovery statement next to the dates or simply don’t address the issue at all.

  • If you were ever arrested for smoking pot or being intoxicated — even just once in your life — the fact may surface to damage your employment chances. Asking about arrest records is illegal, but a few private database companies don’t let that stop them — they compile electronic databases of such arrest information and sell them to any employer who will buy.

Avoid mentioning drugs or alcohol, be careful about application forms, and be honest at interviews — if you have recovered or if the experience was a brief fling or two.

If you’re still held prisoner by a chronic, destructive, or debilitating overuse of a chemical substance that interferes with your life or employment, no resume tweaks will benefit you. Get help for your addiction.

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