Minimizing Disclosure Risk in HHS Open Data Initiatives. 2. Federal Alcohol and Drug Confidentiality Regulations


Two laws protect the identity and medical records of patients receiving treatment for alcoholism or drug abuse and restrict the types of information that federally-assisted drug or alcohol abuse programs can release about current and former patients: (1) the Comprehensive Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism Prevention, Treatment, and Rehabilitation Act of 1970 and (2) the Drug Abuse Prevention, Treatment, and Rehabilitation Act (1972).7 Under these regulations, information may be released without a patient’s written consent if the information is shared within the program or to qualified-service organizations that provide services to the program; is needed to meet a “bona fide medical emergency;” or is authorized by a court order for good cause. Information may also be released for purposes of research, management or financial audits, or program evaluations. An independent body must review the research proposal to determine that patients’ rights are adequately protected and that the benefits outweigh the risks of disclosing personal information. The researchers cannot identify individual patients, either directly or indirectly, in the final report.

7 “Confidentiality of Alcohol and Drug Abuse Patient Records,” Title 42 U.S. Code, Sec. 1.A.2. Available at [ Accessed June 11 2014.

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