Trusted Content

Can I Get In Legal Trouble For Admitting Drug Use In Rehab?

Joseph Sitarik, DO

Medically reviewed by

Joseph Sitarik, DO

February 28, 2019

While in rehab it is important to be completely honest with treatment professionals about all drug use. Therapists are there to help individuals overcome addiction, not to incriminate them for illicit drug use. Being honest about addiction and substance of choice allows individuals to get the best recovery possible.

The Short Answer Is “No”

It varies from situation to situation, but in the vast majority of cases, simply admitting illegal drug use to your treatment professional will not land you in jail. This is true whether you’re owning up to past drug use as a condition of entering rehab, or revealing a current relapse while already in rehab.

It should be remembered, of course, that in some inpatient facilities, relapsing with an illegal substance is grounds for getting kicked out of the program; however, even in these rare cases, the facility seldom ever goes so far as to inform the police of the illicit drug use that caused the relapse.

Patient Confidentiality

The main reason for this is that many addiction treatment centers are bound by federal laws such as the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) and section 543 of the Public Health Service Act. These laws require that medical professionals keep patient information confidential in all but the most extreme circumstances.

The logic is that anything but an open, honest conversation between patient and care provider is a roadblock to effective treatment. Indeed, if the patient keeps certain pieces of information to him or herself, the consequences could very well be deadly. For example, your regular physician needs to know of any illegal substances you’ve taken to avoid potential interactions with medicines administered while in the hospital.

In a similar manner, your addiction treatment specialist has to know exactly what (if any) illegal substances you’re addicted to, and how long ago you last ingested them, in order to best adapt the treatment method to fit your needs. The number-one priority is your health, safety, and effective recovery—not turning you over to the police.

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What Are The Exceptions?

One exception to confidentiality regarding patient drug use is if an illegal substance drives you to physically harm another patient or staff member, or if it makes you an immediate, imminent threat to yourself. In this case, the police may get involved.

Another exception is if you actively share your illegal substance with other patients. There have been at least two examples in the last few years, one at a state-run rehab facility in Minnesota and another at Veterans Affairs treatment center in New Jersey. In both cases, it is important to remember that the guilty patient was charged specifically with distributing illegal substances to other addicted individuals, not with possessing the drugs for personal use.

Put Yourself At Ease

If you’re seeking recovery for yourself or a loved one, but are hesitant to reveal the drug use to a third party, don’t worry: no one in the treatment process is out to get you. Most treatment centers have patient confidentiality guidelines already in place. For help sorting through the details, contact us today at, and we’ll get your recovery moving.

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