Federal law (Code of Federal Regulations, Title 42, Part II) guarantee the strict confidentiality of information about all persons receiving substance abuse prevention and treatment services. They are designed to protect privacy rights and thereby attract individuals into treatment who otherwise would not enter treatment. The regulations are more restrictive of communications than are those governing the doctor-client relationship or the attorney-client privilege. Violating the regulations is punishable by a fine.
The Federal confidentiality law and regulations protect any information about a client if the client has applied for or received any alcohol- or drug abuse-related services -- including assessment, diagnosis, detoxification, counseling, group counseling, treatment, and referral for treatment. The restrictions on disclosure apply to any information that would identify the client as a substance abuser, either directly or by implication. The rule applies from the moment the client is accepted into treatment. The rule applies whether or not the person making the inquiry already has the information, has other ways of getting it, enjoys official status, is authorized by State law, or comes armed with a subpoena or search warrant.