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Your Privacy Rights in Addiction Treatment

One concern that a person may have about seeking addiction treatment is the possibility of other people finding out about the drug use. Knowing your privacy rights may help you feel more comfortable with reaching out for support, however. Healthcare providers and mental health professionals are bound by strict codes of ethics regarding confidentiality, and state and federal regulations are also in place to help ensure privacy. If you or someone you know needs support with overcoming an addiction, please call 1-888-439-3435 Who Answers? , which is a secure and confidential hotline.

Privacy Fears and Concerns

It’s not uncommon for people to feel ashamed about substance abuse and worry that others will treat them differently if they find out about it, partly because of the myths and public perception regarding drug users. Addiction affects people from all walks of life, though. From the homeless to high-ranking officials, people of all backgrounds, income levels, and lifestyles are susceptible to it.

The preferred drug can bring additional concerns. Alcohol, prescription drugs, and marijuana often have less of a stigma attached to them, as they are either legal or considered “mild” in comparison to street drugs. Because the purchase or use of substances such as cocaine, heroin, and meth is illegal, some people may also worry they will encounter legal troubles for sharing information about the abuse.

People who provide addiction treatment are well aware of these fears and concerns. The primary goal of qualified facilities and treatment providers is to help people get sober, and part of their jobs is to protect the identities and information of those who come through their doors. People who are interested in connecting with qualified treatment providers can call 1-888-439-3435 Who Answers? to discuss available options with a confidential referral service.

HIPAA Privacy Rules

Most facilities and providers in the U.S. healthcare system are bound by HIPAA, a legislative act that protects patient information. In addition to HIPAA, most rehab clinics provide a confidentiality agreement for review and acceptance, prior to admittance or services. HIPAA covers recorded information, such as paper and electronic files, as well as information provided orally. Facilities must have security measures in place and signed agreements for both staff and patients to remain in compliance with the federal law.

Substance Abuse Testing and Addiction Assessment

Denial is one of the most prevalent symptoms of advanced drug abuse. High tolerance and dependency are part and parcel of the phenomenon of denial. Only substance abuse testing can uncover the harmful and self-destructive habits of an advanced addict, so that an addiction assessment can be made and the healing process can begin.

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Your privacy rights go beyond a vague right to confidentiality. HIPAA grants people additional rights regarding their files and information, as well as the ability to file formal complaints with the government if those rights are violated.

People have the right to view their files. Some circumstances can limit this right, however. If a person is receiving treatment for a psychiatric condition in addition to substance abuse, and information in the file could create setbacks or problems in treatment, some information may be withheld. If a person requests a file and sees incorrect information, he can request corrections to prevent it from being seen by other treatment providers in the system. The changes may not be made if the provider believes the information is correct; however, at the very least, the patient’s objection is noted in the file.

Patients also have the right to know how their personal information will be used or shared. Some facilities use information to compile statistics and case studies regarding treatment; however, those reports should not contain any identifying information.

Privacy in Support Groups

Some people in recovery may worry that their privacy will be compromised if they participate in group therapy or support groups. While there is no absolute guarantee that another group member will not divulge information, group members typically operate with a shared understanding that everyone’s privacy is important and should be protected. Privacy is also written into agreements and policies. The members are all there for the same or similar reasons, so they generally understand and respect each other’s need for confidentiality. Community-based support groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous also have rules in place to help protect the anonymity of group members, who have the right to withhold their own information and are expected not to reveal the identities of others.