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Ethics refers to the important codes that protect clients and professionals before, during, and after treatment. In reaching out to a rehab center, you’re putting a lot of trust in their hands – they’ll be responsible for caring for you in some of your most vulnerable times.

Quality addiction programs won’t take their position of responsibility lightly – they’ll communicate and uphold their own high standards to make sure your treatment progresses safely and effectively. 

You’ve got to know that you can trust them – most treatment centers will provide some information about their ethical standards practice. However, they can be tricky to understand if you’ve never seen them before. This blog will shed some light on what ethical substance addiction treatment means.  

Four Cornerstones of Medical Ethics

Different treatment centers will have varying ethical groundwork. That said, across them all (and across the entire medical field), there are four key principles you can expect to underlie their values:

1. Autonomy

You should expect your autonomy – your right to make your own decisions regarding your treatment – to be upheld from your first interaction to your last. Generally speaking, this means you have the final say in whether you will receive addiction treatment, which therapies you receive, the option to leave the program if you wish, and so on. If you’ve got certain expectations and needs, doctors need to consider them when making a recommendation. 

2. Justice

Justice means that within your treatment center, doctors will treat patients equally. For example, in an addiction treatment center, clients will be treated fairly regardless of gender, race, age, SUD, or other disorders. 

3. Beneficence

This one is fairly straightforward. Beneficence refers to the moral obligation, or duty, of the medical professional to act in the interests of and for the good of the patient. This tenant of ethical treatment is limited by the patient autonomy we mentioned before. Your specialist has a moral obligation to treat you but is still limited by what you choose for yourself. 

4. Nonmaleficence

You may have heard the common doctor’s motto, “first, do no harm”. Nonmaleficence is a term that’s describing this value. In addiction treatment, this means offering only types of treatment that are informed by best practices, research, and other objective methods.

Since we are sometimes prescribed scheduled substances, this also means explaining the side effects and habit-forming potential of any prescription medications offered. You came to treatment to help yourself – it’s important doctors help you to understand the risk of any decisions you make.

Nationwide Organizations

The National Association of Addiction Treatment Providers (NAATP) is a large group of providers who have chosen to abide by the same treatment, management, facility, and marketing rules. When we focus on their treatment code, you can see how the criteria for membership appears to uphold different pillars of the standard medical ethics code. Their treatment:

  • follows the same admissions, treatment, continuing care, and referral criteria regardless of the client. (Justice)
  • offers competent holistic treatment that addresses client needs. (Beneficence)
  • protects the human rights and dignity of the client and family. (Justice)
  • engages clients from start to finish in treatment planning and decision-making. (Autonomy)
  • is appropriately licensed for all services they offer requiring it. (Nonmaleficence)

Meanwhile, the largest association of addiction professionals in the US, the NAADAC, has an extensive ethical code covering a wide range of points of conflict, from personal beliefs to heritage to methodology and advocacy. Their code is too complex to include here but is an excellent example of what an in-depth ethics code looks like for an individual professional. They also include the four tenants as key concepts in their introduction to ethical standards. 

Countless smaller providers will have their personal ethical codes listed on their websites. If you’re ever uncertain about the ethics of a treatment program, these two codes make good cross-references for the standard of care when choosing who you entrust to help begin your recovery journey.