Entering into drug addiction treatment can bring up a lot of fears, because it is such a radical transformation from the life you know. One of these fears is that this large part of your life is no longer being kept a secret. You have kept this secret hidden for so long, and may be afraid of legal punishment, or the loss of jobs or relationships if your addiction and need for recovery were to become "public knowledge."
Some people let these irrational fears keep them away from seeking treatment for their addiction. Thus, it can be very helpful to inform yourself about the truth of privacy laws, and how they will impact both how you receive medical care, and who can find out about your addiction treatment. There is a law that recognizes alcohol and drug abuse patients' special need for confidentiality, and seeks to regulate and protect those in need of care.
HIPPAA and privacy
Signed into law in 1996, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act had several far-reaching impacts on how the health care system in the U.S. operates. Part of this is through defining policies, procedures, and guidelines for maintaining the privacy and security of your individual health information.
In terms of protecting your medical information from being seen what was formally an unguaranteed hodgepodge of state laws is now set to a national standard used in all doctors offices, hospitals, and other businesses where personal medical information is stored. Because of HIPPAA, you do not have to worry about your medical information becoming public knowledge, or being shared with any health care provider without your awareness and consent.
For the most part, you're involvement in any medical procedure can not be revealed to anyone else unless:
a) you consent in writing
b) a court order demands disclosure
c) it is considered essential information in a medical emergency or other situation that might cause great harm to yourself or someone else.
d) in a few other circumstances, such as part of data for research or evaluation.
HIPPAA and drug treatment
The law also recognizes that people seeking treatment for addiction require special forms of confidentially protection so that stigma or fear or prosecution would not keep people from seeking life-saving treatment. To this end, there is a special part of HIPPAA called 42 Code of Federal Regulations Part 2, or 42 CFR Part 2 that offers further protection to people receiving treatment for addiction.
Essentially, if you are receiving treatment for recovery from addiction, or a certain piece of medical information that might "out" you as someone struggling with drug use and addiction, many of the potential exceptions that might normally allow the sharing of your data do not apply. As long as the program receives federal funding, written patient consent must be giving for the disclosure of any medical information to anyone else.
Thus, information about your current or past drug or alcohol program is not going to be revealed to all your health care providers because of your involvement with a recovery program. You can remain safe that your information can be kept private, and you will be the one to decide to reveal it. These laws work to make that possible. If you are afraid that seeking recovery will damage your reputation or lead to punishment or loss of jobs, you don't have to worry, because the law will protect you. That is one fear that need not hold you back. The life-saving decision to get help is one that you will not regret.