Seeking inpatient therapy for addiction means leaving work or school to attend treatment. While getting treatment for an addiction is critical, it’s not always easy to leave your obligations behind. It’s key to understand what options are available so you can make getting mentally and physically healthy your top priority—while preserving your employment or student status.

Leaving Work or School to Attend Treatment: Do It Right

Addiction is a chronic disease that affects the brain and results in behavioral changes. Like any other chronic disease, treatment is needed to recover. Here are three things you should know about leaving work or school to attend treatment.

1. Taking a Leave of Absence from Work

You may fear that taking a leave from work will jeopardize your job, but if you allow your addiction to continue without treatment, your job will be in danger anyway. It’s better to take time from work to recover than to let substance abuse continue.

When you choose to seek addiction treatment, federal laws protect your right to obtain care. Under these laws, it’s illegal to terminate you just because you’re seeking treatment, but you need to follow protocol for taking a leave.

FMLA: The Family Medical Leave Act entitles you to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave for medical reasons, during any 12-month period, if you work for a covered employer.1

PTO: If you’ve accumulate paid time off, it can be used to take leave from your job. Take time away from work to attend treatment by using the accrued vacation, sick or personal time you have banked.

2. Taking a Leave of Absence from School

Students with disabilities, including those related to mental health, have rights to reasonable accommodations that relate to their disabilities, including leaves of absence.

Woman laying in the grass looking at a laptop

Each school will have their own policy for taking a leave of absence, so check with the student office of your school for the details. Generally speaking, your school will grant you a leave of absence when you go through their required procedures to begin the absence.

A leave of absence is time when you’re not enrolled in classes, but you plan to return. Schools realize that other issues can come up for students, especially medical or mental health conditions. Some schools have different categories of leaves that relate to medical or mental health time away. Be sure to explore your options carefully to apply for the leave that best fits your needs.

3. Protection Under the Law for Leaving Work or School to Attend Treatment

On the Job

The Americans with Disabilities Act is a federal law prohibiting discrimination against workers with disabilities.2 Private companies with more than 15 workers and state and local government employers must comply with the ADA.

To qualify for protection, you must demonstrate that you have a disability that substantially diminishes one or more major life activities. Put another way, you’re required to show that your condition, if left untreated, would interfere with your daily or work activities. Examples include trouble with concentration, communication or regulation of emotions.

At School

Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 prohibits discrimination against those with disabilities within programs or activities operated by organizations that receive federal funds.3 Most schools receive some type of federal funding. When you have a debilitating medical or mental health condition, such as addiction, you’re covered under Section 504, which forbids your school from discriminating against you based on the nature of your condition.

Focus on Recovery

School and work can be highly stressful and exacerbate substance use. In order for you to excel in your studies or on the job, leaving work or school to attend treatment is important, allowing you to take the time you need to focus on yourself and your mental health.