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Complete Overview of Regulations: 42 CFR Part 2


a.) Definitions

Substance abuse, as used in this summary, means alcohol or drug abuse, or both. Alcohol use is the consumption of any alcoholic beverage, while drug use is the non-medicinal use of a psychoactive substance.  Alcohol9 and drug abuse10 are the use of the relevant substance in a manner that impairs the physical, mental, emotional, or social well-being of the user.

A substance abuse diagnosis is a reference to an individual’s substance abuse or to a condition caused by that abuse for purposes of treatment or referral for treatment,11 even if the diagnosis is not ultimately used for such purposes.12 However, diagnosis does not include:

  • A diagnosis of drug overdose or alcohol intoxication that clearly shows that the individual involved is not a substance abuser (such as, for example, involuntary consumption or a reaction to a prescribed dosage of a drug);13 or
  • Diagnosis made solely to provide evidence for use by law enforcement authorities.14

Substance abuse treatment is the management and care of a patient suffering from substance abuse or a condition caused by that abuse, or both, in order to reduce or eliminate the patient’s adverse effects.15



  • 9. 42 CFR § 2.11 at “Alcohol abuse.”
  • 10. 42 CFR § 2.11 at “Drug abuse.”
  • 11. 42 CFR § 2.11 at “Diagnosis.”
  • 12. 42 CFR § 2.12(e)(4).
  • 13. 42 CFR § 2.12(e)(4)(ii).
  • 14. 42 CFR § 2.12(e)(4)(i).
  • 15. 42 CFR § 2.11 at “Treatment.”