Step by Step Guides to Finding Treatment for Drug Use Disorders
Cost and Privacy Issues

This is Archived Content. This content is available for historical purposes only. It may not reflect the current state of science or language from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). Find current research and publications at

If my teen or young adult confides in their doctor, will I be able to find out what's going on?

If your child talks to a doctor or other medical expert, privacy laws might prevent that expert from sharing the information with you. However, you can speak to the doctor before your child's appointment and express your concerns, so the doctor knows the importance of a drug use screening in your child’s situation. In addition, most health care providers that specialize in addiction treatment can’t share your information with anyone (even other providers) without your written permission. You can ask your child about signing a permission form to allow the doctor to share information with you. For more information on how private medical information is protected by law, read the HHS information on Health Information Privacy (HIPAA) and the substance use confidentiality regulations (PDF, 388KB).

In certain cases when health professionals believe your child might be a danger to themself or to others, the provider may be able to share relevant information with family members. Here is more information on when it is appropriate for the clinician to share protected information.

How will we pay for treatment?

If your child has health insurance, it may cover substance use treatment services. Many insurance plans offer inpatient stays. When setting up appointments with treatment centers, you can ask about payment options and what insurance plans they take. They can also advise you on low-cost options.

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The Behavioral Health Treatment Services Locator provided by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration provides payment information for each of the treatment services listed, including information on sliding fee scales and payment assistance. Its "Frequently Asked Questions" section addresses cost of treatment (See the question: “Where can a person with no money and no insurance get treatment?”). In addition, you can also call the treatment helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (1-800-662-4357) or 1-800-487-4889 (TTY) to ask about treatment centers that offer low- or no-cost treatment. You can also contact your state behavioral health agency—many states offer help with payment for substance use treatment.

Note that the new The Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act ensures that co-pays, deductibles, and visit limits are generally not more restrictive for mental health and substance use disorder benefits than they are for medical and surgical benefits. The Affordable Care Act builds on this law and requires coverage of mental health and substance use disorder services as one of ten essential health benefits categories. Under the essential health benefits rule, individual and small group health plans are required to comply with these parity regulations. For more information on the Affordable Care Act, you can call 1-800-318-2596 or go to

When you research payment options, be sure you are speaking to people familiar with the new rules (old websites and pamphlets will not necessarily be accurate.)

A note on health insurance for veterans: If the person needing treatment is a veteran or is covered by health benefits for veterans, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) can help you find VA services near you. Visit the VA Substance Use Disorder Program Locator to do your search.