While there is no reason to be ashamed of your desire to treat your addiction, you may have reservations about seeking help due to the stigma that drug or alcohol abuse still carries with some people in society. Unfortunately, there are still some people in the world who just might not understand, which is why you may prefer to make sure that your enrollment in a drug rehab program does not show up on a permanent record.
You may be especially concerned about your treatment showing up on your permanent record if you work in a high-profile field or one that requires you to be responsible and alert such as a position in the medical field. Patient confidentiality is a critical part of your treatment plan, and you can begin your journey to recovery by exploring exactly how and when your personal information may be used so that you can relax about your decision to get help.
Understand How Privacy Laws Work
When you are worried about your privacy, you can rest assured that there are already laws in place that are established by the government that protects your reputation. The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) applies to treatment programs that accept any type of federal assistance.
This policy requires these facilities to protect the personal information of anyone who is enrolled in the program. For example, they must minimize the amount of people who know your personal information, which is why many rehab centers recommend that you introduce yourself with a first name only when you interact with other residents. Other safeguards must also be taken to protect your identifying information such as using secure online record storage that does not reveal your health information to anyone but the people who must know. When you enroll in a drug rehab, you must also be provided with written information that explains the HIPAA policy. In fact, you have likely already seen this document if you have gone to the doctor for other health reasons.
The Confidentiality of Alcohol and Drug Abuse Patient Records is another regulation that further protects your rights as a person in addiction treatment. This regulation prohibits substance abuse programs from disclosing information about your treatment at a residential or outpatient program unless they have your written consent.
Keep in mind that this regulation does have a few exceptions to the strict confidentiality rules. For instance, the treatment program may not need your written consent if a court order is issued that addresses criminal concerns or suspicions of child abuse. However, those instances are rare, and you would normally already be aware of any lawsuits or criminal investigations into your past behavior.
Choose Who You Want to Know
One of the benefits of drug rehabs being required to ask for your written consent before they share information is that you maintain more control over who knows that you are in treatment. However, you should keep in mind that it is beneficial to let certain people know that you are in a drug rehab. For instance, you may choose to tell the following people that you are caring for your health.
• Your employer (although this is not required)
• Your spouse or life partner
• Your family
• Your insurance company
According to the law, addiction is treated as a disability that prohibits people such as an employer from discriminating against you provided that you are sober. However, you may choose to keep your drug addiction treatment private. If you do, then you may only be required to complete the processes in place to request medical leave if you plan to attend a residential treatment center. For the utmost level or privacy, you can go to a partial hospitalization program that may not require you to take off any work. Going to rehab on an outpatient basis may eliminate any paper trail that you are worried about since you may be able to continue to go to work as normal.
Your insurance company may also keep financial records that pertain to your drug rehab stay. However, this will only reveal basic information such as the need for a residential or outpatient counseling or other therapeutic services. In most instances, these records are only kept for a certain amount of time, and they are not allowed to be shared with anyone without your consent.
Health insurance companies must comply with the same or similar confidentiality laws that drug rehabs have in place. If you have serious concerns about using your health insurance, then you may have other financial options for payment that completely eliminate any type of records being held by your insurance agency.
There are many other people that you may choose to tell about your treatment who will not keep permanent records. For instance, your loved ones are a rich source of support, and you may want them to attend therapy sessions with you to help make sure that your transition home supports your desire to stay sober.
Students may also choose to tell their teachers or the administration at their school that they are going to rehab if the stay occurs during their academic time. Once again, you should expect that this information will be kept confidential by the people that you trust. In fact, they may only need a document that states the dates of your expected absence to help you finish out your education.
Prevent Your Addiction From Affecting Your Reputation
People often worry that rehab will look bad on their permanent record, but it rarely every shows up on anything that is viewed by the public. However, your drug or alcohol abuse can quickly add up to a damaged reputation and long-term stains on your record if you get caught up in criminal activity or demonstrate unacceptable behavior in public. Today, all it takes is for an arrest or embarrassing photo to be published on social media to tarnish your reputation for years to come. Treating your addiction helps to make sure that this never happens.