Adolescent substance abuse. Confidentiality and consent

Pediatr Clin North Am. 2002 Apr;49(2):301-15. doi: 10.1016/s0031-3955(01)00005-0.


Although all states have laws that allow minors to consent to substance abuse treatment, there is variability from state to state. Health care providers need to be aware of laws within their states. When providing health care to adolescents, many situations arise in which the provider must make a determination of the patient's competence to consent and whether parental notification would be in the patient's best interest. Confidentiality should be honored when possible, with limitations of the extent of confidentiality explained. Adolescents are able to consent for alcohol and drug treatment in most states, but involvement of the family is optimal in most cases. Physicians and other medical care providers also need to manage confidentiality issues in drug testing, billing of services, and medical records and need to work with clinical administrative staff to clarify and implement policies to maintain confidentiality. Proposed changes to medical privacy regulations may compromise confidentiality for medical care of adolescents. Medical providers should continue to work with their professional societies and legislators to ensure that appropriate consent and confidentiality statues exist to provide optimal health care to adolescents.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adolescent Behavior / psychology
  • Confidentiality / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • Confidentiality / psychology
  • Ethics, Medical
  • Humans
  • Informed Consent / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • Substance-Related Disorders / psychology*