Addiction Treatment & Addiction Therapy Options

Will My Stay in Rehab Really Be Confidential?

Will My Stay in Rehab Really Be Confidential?

Confidentiality about personal matters is important to most people. Single caregivers of children are concerned that if certain things became open to scrutiny, they may lose their children. Executives holding key positions may fear that they will be demoted or fired should their employer find out that they are seeking addiction treatment services. Your concerns are valid, but there are several laws that protect your rights. To get a better understanding about the confidentiality associated with your rehab, you may want to get a refresher on the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA), an overview of 42 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Part 2 and understand some exceptions to these laws.

About the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA)

Established in 1996, HIPAA is a federal law that gives you rights over your health information and sets rules and limits on who can look at and receive your health information. The Privacy Rule applies to all forms of individuals’ protected health information, whether electronic, written or oral. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ post, “Your Rights Under HIPAA[1] describes this law.

One of the key aspects about HIPAA is a description of the information that is protected including the following:

  • Information your doctors, nurses and other health care providers put in your medical record
  • Conversations your doctor has about your care or treatment with nurses and others
  • Information about you in your health insurer’s computer system
  • Billing information about you at your clinic
  • Most other health information about you held by those who must follow these laws

Knowing what information is protected is important and understanding how that information is protected is of equal interest and includes the following:

  • Covered entities must put in place safeguards to protect your health information and ensure they do not use or disclose your health information improperly.
  • Covered entities must reasonably limit uses and disclosures to the minimum necessary to accomplish their intended purpose.
  • Covered entities must have procedures in place to limit who can view and access your health information as well as implement training programs for employees about how to protect your health information.
  • Business associates also must put in place safeguards to protect your health information and ensure they do not use or disclose your health information improperly.

In addition to these provisions about the obligations of service providers, HIPAA also establishes your right about your health information. Health insurers and providers who are covered entities must comply with your rights including the following:

  • Asking to see and getting a copy of your health records
  • Having corrections added to your health information
  • Receiving a notice that tells you how your health information may be used and shared
  • Deciding if you want to give your permission before your health information can be used or shared for certain purposes, such as for marketing
  • Getting a report on when and why your health information was shared for certain purposes

Not only are the responsibilities, obligations and rights clearly defined, but the penalties for violating these rights are also detailed.

42 Code of Federal Regulations

The American Society of Addiction Medicine offers an overview of the 42 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Part 2 in their post, “Confused by Confidentiality? A Primer on 42 CFR Part 2.”[2] The privacy provisions in 42 CFR Part 2 were motivated by the understanding that stigma and fear of prosecution might dissuade persons with substance use disorders from seeking treatment. This extra layer of protection on your records give you added assurance that your rehab experience will be confidential.

The legal arm of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) provides an overview of what information about a person’s treatment may be disclosed with and without that person’s consent and includes the following:

  • 42 CFR Part 2 applies to any individual or entity that is federally assisted and provides alcohol or drug abuse diagnosis, treatment or referral for treatment. Most drug and alcohol treatment programs are federally assisted. For-profit programs and private practitioners that do not receive federal assistance of any kind would not be subject to the requirements of 42 CFR Part 2 unless the State licensing or certification agency requires them to comply. However, any clinician who uses a controlled substance for detox or maintenance treatment of a substance use disorder requires a federal DEA registration and becomes subject to the regulations through the DEA license.
  • The information protected by 42 CFR Part 2 is any information disclosed by a covered program that identifies an individual directly or indirectly as having a current or past drug or alcohol problem, or as a participant in a covered program.
  • With limited exceptions, 42 CFR Part 2 requires patient consent for disclosures of protected health information even for the purposes of treatment, payment or health care operations. Consent for disclosure must be in writing.

With this additional level of protection, you should feel more confident about getting the treatment you need to gain your sobriety from drugs and alcohol.


Your health is of utmost important and the laws do allow for exceptions to disclosing your information as explained in the post “Applying the Substance Abuse Confidentiality Regulations.”[3] Medical emergencies and legal mandates are the primary exceptions.

Get Help to Learn More About Confidentiality in Rehab

Please call our toll-free helpline today. Our admissions coordinators are available 24 hours a day to answer your questions and provide you with useful resources to overcome addiction. Begin your new life today.