Should We Relax HIPAA Regulations to Allow Release of Information to Family Members When Someone Overdoses?

We would like to thank Gail Gabbert from “Opiate Support Group” for providing us access to this PodCast.  The best way to learn more about opiate & opioid drug addiction is to go straight to the source.  By listening to recovering addicts speak, we are learning the honest and candid truth about this drug addiction crisis.

This particular topic should interest all of us since it has to do with HIPPA and medical privacy.  The main question is should we relax the rules on HIPAA for the loved ones of people who are addicted to opiates or opioids  (Heroin or Pain Pills)?  Why would we want to loosen these laws anyway? 

Well, because often drug addicts cannot help themselves.  They are stuck in a viscous cycle of addiction.  They need outside support and often this comes from family members.  Currently, even family members are restricted from accessing vital medical information about another family member. 

Even spouses cannot gain access to this medical information unless the other spouse specifically signs a letter giving them permission and authority.

However, when drug addicts are in so deep with their drug addiction,…they might not be in a position or frame of mind to sign any letter giving their loved ones permission to work with their medical file.

In the case of a drug overdose, the addict is definitely incapacitated for a period of time.  We do support the idea that a family member SHOULD be able to step in and help the addict without breaking any HIPPA laws. 

We should make it very fast and easy for a loved-one to gain access to the addicts medical file in order to make proper decisions on their behalf. 

Do you agree or disagree?  Please leave your comments below. 

This needs to be talked about along with all other issues related to this drug addiction epidemic.  We know that this is not a ‘pretty’ topic to talk about.  But, more people must be talking about it and spreading the word.  More must be done to combat opiate & opioid drug abuse. 

There are 7 people who die from overdose every single hour in the United States.  If including abroad, the stats are even worse.

Health Insurance Portability and Accountabiity Act (HIPAA) regulates the confidentiality of health records. Presently, healthcare records cannot be released without the informed consent of a patient. Governor Chris Christie, who is leading an opioid task force, was asked to consider relaxing HIPAA regulations in order to allow family members to be informed of a member’s non-lethal overdose.  drugs heroin and opiates

This knowledge could open the door to treatment options. Listen in to this opiate support group discuss their opinions.  We have listed the discussion points below so that you can follow along while you listen to this important discussion.


Discussion Guide:


  • If you were to overdose and received services from a healthcare provider, would you want that information released to your family?


  • Under what circumstances would you want your family to be informed of your overdose?


  • What are the pros and cons of relaxing HIPAA regulations in the case of overdose?


  • Narcan (also known as Naltrexone) is a life saving measure. Do you have Narcan available? Have you instructed your family and associates in how to use it?



Should We Relax HIPAA Regulations to Allow Release of Information to Family Members When Someone Overdoses?


Supplemental Reading:

Erin Mershon and Andrew Joseph, Do Family Members Have a Right to Know When a Loved one Overdoses on Opioids?


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  1. HIPAA rules are currently too strict when it comes to something like a loved one overdosing on opiates or heroin. More must be done to help addicts. it is a disease just like cancer however…there is a cure.

  2. We would say that YES, we should relax the laws that HIPPA puts on people so that family members can step in and help an overdose victim better. What do you think?

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