Do you know someone in your life who you believe would benefit from attending a rehab, but you don’t think that person will agree to it? Or, perhaps you are struggling with addiction yourself, and you are concerned that a family member might try to make you go to rehab against your will. In either situation, wondering whether you can force someone into rehab is a common consideration. There are laws in many states that address this exact issue.
Legal Criteria to Force Someone Into Rehab
Some states allow a concerned party to seek the involuntary commitment of someone suffering from severe addiction to a rehab facility. Still, meeting the required criteria in these cases is strict.
The National Alliance for Model State Drug Laws (NAMSDL)1 found that 37 states will allow involuntary commitment under the following circumstances: 2
1. The concerned party must be able to prove that their friend or loved one is suffering from addiction. The addiction can be from drugs or alcohol, or both. This stipulation aims to prevent the involuntary commitment of people struggling with mental health or who could be the target of someone who wants to have them committed for other reasons unrelated to severe addiction.
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2. The party also must prove the person in question is a danger to themselves or others. Evidence can include threats of violence, attempted or actual violence, or suicidal threats or actions.
3. As an alternative to #2, the concerned party may be able to prove that the individual cannot take care of him- or herself as a direct result of the addiction. If a person is so under the thrall of addiction that they cannot buy food, obtain shelter or clothing, or seek other basic needs, that person is a candidate for involuntary commitment in the states that allow it. However, in these cases, the party must also prove that no other eligible adults could provide for those basic needs while the person is recovering.
One Legal Exception
These criteria might sound strict, especially if you are a parent or a family member watching your loved one struggle from addiction with no help in sight. However, these rules are in place to preserve the freedom and autonomy of all individuals as much as possible. Especially when there is a low risk of imminent death or bodily harm.
The exception to the above rules is the case of a minor child being taken to rehab by a parent or legal guardian. Parents of children under 18 have a lower bar to meet to have their child admitted to a rehab facility involuntarily. Those laws also vary by state, so be sure to check your state laws to find out the specifics for your location.
What About the Circumstances the Law Doesn’t Cover?
Suppose that you’re in a state that doesn’t allow involuntary commitment, or you cannot meet the criteria. You may be wondering what to try next. It can be tempting to use ultimatums or force to put a loved one back in rehab against their will.
However, the chances are that this plan will backfire eventually. You can drop someone off at rehab, but they still have the legal right to refuse entry and leave.
Even if pressure or an ultimatum gets your loved one to check into rehab, that’s only the first step. Ultimately, you cannot force someone to put in the work and effort necessary for recovery. Rehab does require some personal commitment to go through detox, heal emotionally, develop coping strategies and learn to live sober.
However, we also know that many patients can grow more willing to participate in treatment, depending on how staff running the program treat them. At Clear Life Recovery, we’re experienced in working with stubborn patients to increase their willingness to change and embrace participation in the treatment program.
Encouragement and Support Are Usually Better Options
People in the grip of addiction often feel alone and abandoned, even on their best days. There are better approaches to take being coercive or reinforcing negative feelings the person may have about themselves. Instead, try to gently convey your feelings and support any steps toward recovery they are willing to take.
Clear Life Recovery’s mission is to help people beat and recover from substance use disorders. Toward that end, we also help individuals build the life tools to maintain long-term sobriety. Contact Clear Life Recovery for more information today.