So, you’re going to drug treatment. Know your rights!

Addiction has a way of wreaking havoc. The consequences are often devastating for the individual, their family, and anyone involved. As the addiction worsens, so do life’s circumstances. Unfortunately, despite the availability of effective treatment, medication, behavioral therapy, and support groups, addiction often goes untreated.

Usually, when a decision is made to enter treatment, it’s often done for a variety of reasons:  As a result of legal consequences, loss of family and friends, damage to physical health, and more. Whatever the reason, the circumstances may be dire.  At the time a decision is made, everyone affected may be at the end of their ropes. Any thinking at all, let alone rational thinking, may not prevail.

Despite all of the emotional noise, a treatment decision is an important one. People need to research and be informed about what to expect. For example, most treatment centers will have certain rules and requirements for clients entering treatment.  Regardless, clients have rights in any healthcare situation.

If you’re heading off to treatment, get informed and know your rights!

Patients have rights?

Patients have rights and some are guaranteed by federal law. State laws tend to vary, but a few give additional protections beyond that of federal law, and some facilities may provide a bill of patient’s rights.

The Texas Mental Health and Substance Abuse Clients Rights provide an excellent example:

The following text is from the Texas Administrative Code Title 25, Part 1, Chapter 448, Subsection G, Rule §448.701, “Client Rights”. 1

  • The facility shall respect, protect, implement and enforce each client right required to be contained in the facility’s Client Bill of Rights. The Client Bill of Rights for all facilities shall include:
    • You have the right to accept or refuse treatment after receiving this explanation.
    • If you agree to treatment or medication, you have the right to change your mind at any time (unless specifically restricted by law).
    • You have the right to a humane environment that provides reasonable protection from harm and appropriate privacy for your personal needs.
    • You have the right to be free from abuse, neglect, and exploitation.
    • You have the right to be treated with dignity and respect.
    • You have the right to appropriate treatment in the least restrictive setting available that meets your needs.
    • You have the right to be told about the program’s rules and regulations before you are admitted, including, without limitation, the rules and policies related to restraints and seclusion. Your legally authorized representative, if any, also has the right to be and shall be notified of the rules and policies related to restraints and seclusion.
    • You have the right to be told before admission:
      • the condition to be treated;
      • the proposed treatment;
      • the risks, benefits, and side effects of all proposed treatment and medication;
      • the probable health and mental health consequences of refusing treatment;
      • other treatments that are available and which ones, if any, might be appropriate for you; and
      • the expected length of stay.
    • You have the right to a treatment plan designed to meet your needs, and you have the right to take part in developing that plan.
    • You have the right to meet with staff to review and update the plan on a regular basis.
    • You have the right to refuse to take part in research without affecting your regular care.
    • You have the right not to receive unnecessary or excessive medication.
    • You have the right to have information about you kept private and to be told about the times when the information can be released without your permission.
    • You have the right to be told in advance of all estimated charges and any limitations on the length of services of which the facility is aware.
    • You have the right to receive an explanation of your treatment or your rights if you have questions while you are in treatment.
    • You have the right to make a complaint and receive a fair response from the facility within a reasonable amount of time.
    • You have the right to complain directly to the Texas Commission on Alcohol and Drug Abuse at any reasonable time.
    • You have the right to get a copy of these rights before you are admitted, including the address and phone number of the Texas Commission on Alcohol and Drug Abuse.
    • You have the right to have your rights explained to you in simple terms, in a way you can understand, within 24 hours of being admitted.
  • For residential sites, the Client Bill of Rights shall also include:
    • You have the right not to be restrained or placed in a locked room by yourself unless you are a danger to yourself or others.
    • You have the right to communicate with people outside the facility. This includes the right to have visitors, to make telephone calls, and to send and receive sealed mail. This right may be restricted on an individual basis by your physician or the person in charge of the program if it is necessary for your treatment or for security, but even then you may contact an attorney or the Texas Commission on Alcohol and Drug Abuse at any reasonable time.
    • If you consented to treatment, you have the right to leave the facility within four hours of requesting release unless a physician determines that you pose a threat of harm to yourself and others.
  • If a client’s right to free communication is restricted under the provisions of subsection (b)(2) of this section, the physician or program director shall document the clinical reasons for the restriction and the duration of the restriction in the client record. The physician or program director shall also inform the client, and, if appropriate, the client’s consenter of the clinical reasons for the restriction and the duration of the restriction.

Before you go to rehab
Before you go to rehab, you can contact the state agency that oversees drug treatment in your state. Our state agencies list should point you in the right direction to get more information. Inform yourself before you go to rehab.

Have your rights been violated?
If you’re currently in a program, or have completed rehab, and you believe your rights were violated, you may file a complaint with the appropriate state agency or consumer assistance organization. 

Other patient’s rights examples:

Patient’s Bill of Rights – General
World Health Organization – Mental health, human rights and legislation
Rights as a Client or Patient of the Connecticut Department of Mental Health & Addiction Services
Rights of Outpatients in New York State
Rights of Inpatients in New York State
Wisconsin Client Rights
Know your rights- SAMHSA


1 Please note that the language below refers to legacy agency Texas Commission on Alcohol and Drug Abuse (TCADA) as the rule was written prior to the consolidation of TCADA with other agencies to become the Department of State Health Services (DSHS).  Where TCADA is mentioned by name in the rule, the same applies to DSHS.


M e m o s

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  1. Kelly From the Desk of...
    Kelly

    Check with the individual treatment program about their policy on medications. You don’t mention the name of the medication. Some medications used for fibromyalgia are controlled substances that may not be prescribed.

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