Can You Force Someone Into Rehab?

Having a loved one who is suffering from substance use disorder is an incredibly difficult process to go...

Having a loved one who is suffering from substance use disorder is an incredibly difficult process to go through, especially if that person is refusing to seek addiction treatment. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, as many as 23.9 million Americans need treatment for substance abuse, yet only about 2.6 million, or 11 percent of them, actually receive help from a treatment facility.

When this is a common occurrence, it’s no wonder that people worry about whether their loved one will get the help they need for their alcohol or drug addiction. When things feel hopeless, many people begin wondering if they can force their loved one into a treatment program involuntarily.

Involuntary Commitment Laws

There are ways to bring someone into drug and alcohol rehab for involuntary treatment, but it is typically a difficult process. Involuntary commitment is typically used for receiving psychiatric treatment for mental disorders, but in some cases it can be used for substance abuse as well, although this requires a higher burden of proof.

For minors, many states allow parents to force their children into rehab programs, even without the child’s consent. This changes once the child reaches the age of 18 and it becomes more complicated, which is why 37 states have some form of involuntary commitment laws.

For your loved one to receive a court order to go to residential treatment, you must prove certain circumstances to a judge. First, you will need to prove that the person in question does in fact have a problem with drug or alcohol abuse. After this, you may also need to provide evidence that the person has harmed themselves or others, or that they will do so if not admitted to a rehab center.

If they are not a threat, you may instead have to prove either that addiction has rendered them physically or mentally disabled, that they lack the ability to make their own decisions, or that they are unable to fulfill their basic needs and tend to their personal affairs.

The person suffering from substance use disorder must be assessed by a medical professional who provides written certification that they require addiction treatment. The person also has the right to an attorney and can petition the court for a writ of habeas corpus. They are also allowed to be present at the hearing, cross-examine witnesses, and appeal.

Another method of involuntary commitment is to go through drug court. The drug court process diverts nonviolent offenders with substance use disorder, where instead of going to prison they are admitted to alcohol or drug rehab. The goal of this is to provide treatment instead of punishment.

To be eligible for drug court, the person must have been arrested, pleaded guilty, and agreed to the court ordered rehab program. Over a quarter of people aged 12 or older who receive treatment options for substance abuse were referred by the courts or justice system.

Typical Length Of Involuntary Treatment

The length of time for involuntary commitment varies based on jurisdiction and can range anywhere from three days to a year. For example, in Florida the court can order treatment for up to 60 days, while in South Carolina the maximum is 90 days.

Other states, such as Connecticut and Colorado, have a much longer length of treatment. In Connecticut the range is 30 to 180 days, while Colorado has a maximum of 270 days. Most states have an option for recommitment if the court believes additional treatment is necessary.

Does Involuntary Treatment Work?

In some cases, involuntary commitment does work, however most addicts will get more out of voluntary treatment as this means they are ready to attempt recovery. Typically, involuntary mental health treatment works better than it will for addiction treatment. Not everyone agrees with this ideology, however, as some statistics show that involuntary commitment helps.

According to the National Institute on Drug Addiction, pressure from family, friends, or courts lead to increased treatment attendance, retention rates, and recovery success.

What Else Can You Do?

Since involuntary treatment requires a lengthy and difficult process, there is no guarantee that your loved one will be forced to go into rehab. There are other ways that you may be able to persuade them to seek addiction treatment. A professional intervention has a typically high success rate, as this helps the addict face the reality of how their actions have harmed others.

You can also attempt to have their doctor discuss the dangers of addiction with them, or research treatment facilities you believe may appeal to them. A medical professional can help determine the best course of action for both the persuasion and the actual treatment plan.

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