Every year, millions of Americans suffer from addiction. Many don't reach out for the help they need. Sometimes this is because they don't have adequate resources. But sometimes it's because of the stigma and misinformation surrounding rehab. If you're thinking about going to rehab, it's natural to be concerned about your patient rights. For those who have been to rehab before, one question you may have is: If you go to rehab more than once following a relapse, do your patient rights change?
The short answer is: No. You still have the same rights as any other patient.
The one exception would be if the rehab is a court-mandated program after you've been convicted of breaking the law. If you've been ordered to complete a treatment program, and you fail to comply with those terms, you might go to jail. However, this only applies if you're dealing with a court sentence. For people without court mandates, patient rights remain unchanged no matter how many times you go to rehab.
Understanding Patient Rights
In the United States, all medical patients have a bill of rights. Rehabilitation centers may add to this list of rights with their own policy outlines. If you have questions about any specific center's policies, you can ask one of their intake counselors.
Patient rights are the things you're entitled to as a medical patient. You still have the same medical rights no matter how many times you've relapsed. These rights cover a variety of areas. One important right is the right to privacy. Your medical information cannot be disclosed to anyone without your express permission. Other patient rights include the right to adequate care, bodily autonomy, consent, and accessibility services.
Autonomy and Freedom
When you go to rehab, you're admitting that you've lost control of your life. Many people worry they're just trading one loss of control for another. This can be especially true after a relapse. But every time you go to rehab, you have ultimate control over everything that happens, even if you've relapsed before.
You will need to comply with the center's policies. This means you can't bring prohibited items or break the rules. If you do, the center reserves the right to ask you to leave. But treatment centers aren't prison. There are no locks on the doors. Treatment only works if you want to be there. If you don't consent to be there, you can leave at any time.
Similarly, you'll have to consent to any medical treatment. If your doctor prescribes any new medications, they'll need to advise you about the benefits and drawbacks so you can make an informed decision. If you don't want medication, you won't be forced to take it. Your doctor may highly encourage you to comply with medical treatment, though, as it tends to be helpful with managing addiction.
You have the right to a high quality standard of care. This remains your right no matter whether it's your first time in rehab or your tenth. The staff cannot discriminate against you or treat you poorly just because you've relapsed before.
You have the right to receive adequate nourishment that meets your nutritional needs. If you have a physical disability, you have the right to accessible accommodations. If you speak another language or use sign language, you have the right to an interpreter. Most of all, the center's resources should focus on helping you get better. Your doctors cannot administer improper medical treatment just because you've relapsed in the past.
Friends and Family
If you've relapsed multiple times, you may have a fraught relationship with your friends and family. It's important to establish a support network. With your consent, your treatment center may try to bring your family members in for family therapy. This helps you to establish healthy boundaries and plans for what to do in a crisis.
In some cases, when an addict has relapsed multiple times, their family members refuse to be a part of treatment going forward. They may feel they've been betrayed too many times. The center can encourage them to participate in treatment, but it can't force them. Just like you have the right to leave treatment, they have the right not to participate. They can't legally be forced to be a part of your treatment. Many family members can be convinced to participate if you show that you truly intend to get better, though.
If you're ready to take the first step toward treatment, our counselors are available to talk at 800-737-0933.