Be Aware: Your Rights During Addiction Treatment
Beginning addiction treatment through a reputable rehab center should be an informed decision made after thorough research. Know what you’re signing up for, what you can expect during and after treatment, and what you can do to strengthen your commitment to recovery. Going in with that knowledge helps to cement your pledge to live a healthier, happier, sober life.
That being said, you should also be aware and knowledgeable of your rights during addiction treatment. Knowing what they are protects you against unethical practices and mistreatment that can lead to relapse. When you enroll into an alcohol or drug treatment program, remember these 10 rights:
#1: Your Right to Respect and Dignity
Some people believe that treating addiction means you have to tear down someone’s spirit or make them feel less than. Breaking people down and calling it addiction treatment does nothing to help and only fosters distrust in the process and negative stereotypes of what rehab centers should be. You have the right to be treated respectfully and preserve your dignity throughout all facets of treatment- from detox to group and individual therapy session and beyond.
#2: Your Right to Timely Treatment by a Qualified Professional
We’ve all heard the horror stories: suffering through withdrawal symptoms and other medical conditions because of late or absent medical care. You have the right to timely treatment by a qualified medical or mental health professional throughout your time in addiction treatment. This means any and all medications should be ready and accessible at your scheduled times, and provided by certified medical professionals. Your time in detox should be comfortable and well monitored to ensure your health and safety. If not, that is your first sign to consider treatment elsewhere.
#3: Your Right to Client Confidentiality
One of the most common reasons people hesitate to seek addiction treatment is fear of public ridicule due to the stigmas surrounding addiction. In treatment, they often hesitate to be open and honest in fear as well. Client confidentiality is critical to ensuring a safe place for exploring the latent causes of substance abuse. Psychiatrists, psychologists, and other mental health specialists are legally bound to their commitment to your privacy, except in cases which may lead to harm to yourself or others. The criteria which must be met to breech client confidentiality is very specific to criminal and life-threatening situations. Trust your therapists- they’re here to help.
#4: Your Right to Approved Communication
The reason rehab centers are so sequestered from the rest of society is to create an environment of healing and self-reflection. Contact with the outside world is minimal and monitored to reduce the temptation to contact individuals you should no longer be in communication with, such as drug dealers and other enablers. You do, however, still have the right to communicate with approved individuals such as parents, siblings, spouses, or others who may form your support system. Communication with your loved ones helps keep them in the know about your progress through treatment.
#5: Your Right to Practice Religious Beliefs
Faith in a higher power is what carries many people from addiction to a life of sobriety. Being able to safely and comfortably practice your religious beliefs during addiction treatment is more than important- it’s a right. During your intake process, express your desire to be able to continue your religious practices, including attending church sermons and recognizing holidays. While you may not be able to leave facility property, accommodations should be made to still allow your religious rights without facing discrimination.
You also have the right to refuse religious intervention. While many have found success through religion-based treatment, it is not the only path to sobriety. Be sure to do your research before committing to a treatment facility and make sure it fits your needs.
#6: Your Right to Protection From Harm
Emotions are high during addiction treatment. While we learn to cope with and properly manage difficult emotions, dealing with conflict can be tricky. That’s why there are policies and measures in place to protect you from harm: both from others and yourself. Protection from harm means intervening in occurrences of interpersonal conflict and helping to rectify internal conflict that may lead to self-harm including relapse. Your right to protection from harm includes the right to a drug and alcohol-free environment, and a weapon-free, safe space to explore your recovery and new lifestyle.
This protection does also extend to your fellow people in treatment. It is your responsibility to practice self-control and restraint. Keep your eyes on your own goals; don’t allow others to drag you down.
#7: Right to Exercise Constitutional and Civil Rights
Your constitutional and civil rights are not revoked upon entering addiction treatment. The United States Bill of Rights protects you against unjust legal practices. Should any issues arise that requires legal intervention, your rights remain intact and should be recognized by all parties involved.
#8: Right to Make Informed Decisions About Care
During your time in rehabilitative care, you should be well informed regarding all aspects of your treatment. From detox to discharge, your treatment providers should keep you informed as to what you should expect, what- if any- medications you are prescribed, and how it will benefit you in your recovery. It is your right to request further information or refuse any portion of your treatment, however you should take your time in considering your options. Rejection may result in the termination of your treatment (Discharge Against Medical Advice). If you find yourself in a situation where you are uncomfortable with the treatment you are receiving, you have the right to seek treatment elsewhere: don’t allow one bad experience to end your journey to recovery.
#9: Right to Refuse Treatment
Just as with your right to make informed decisions may lead to the decision to forgo specific treatment options, you also have the right to refuse all treatment. Addiction recovery must be voluntarily pursued for long-term success. While some situations may lead to sentencing which includes rehab, you may still reserve your right to refuse- usually at the cost of your freedom. Leaving against the medical advice of your doctors and therapists can have very real world consequences, including to your health and social relationships. Achieving long-term recovery is about commitment: by minute, hour, and day. The right to refuse treatment is there to protect you and allow you to remove yourself from situations which are not serving your best interest, not perpetuate active addiction. Before you make the choice to refuse treatment, consider all your options and the consequences of your actions.
#10: Right to Information Regarding Client Grievance
Perhaps the most important of your rights, knowing how to file formal complaints regarding your treatment during care is vital to holding rehab facilities responsible and accountable. Being in addiction treatment in no way means you should be subjected to unfair or unethical treatment. If you feel any of the above mentioned rights have been violated during your time in addiction treatment, utilize your right to file a formal complaint. This process is not to be used for petty issues and disagreements, but only for serious cases involving the violation of rights. Follow the proper processes, including filling out proper forms and following up on protocol. If you are not satisfied with the results, you have the right to seek a formal hearing as well. Request information regarding these procedures and be wary: a facility which does not disclose such information is a red flag.
We want to hear from you: did you know about your rights during addiction treatment? Comment below!
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About the Author
Alexandrea Holder is a South Florida native working toward double Master’s degrees in Psychology and English. She finds the psychological aspects of addiction and mental illness fascinating, as both are prevalent in her family’s history. When not researching and spreading addiction awareness, Alexandrea enjoys sparring, artistic pursuits, and admiring puppies online.