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Can You Put Someone in Rehab Against Their Will? Here’s What to Know

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Few things are more frustrating than watching someone you love struggle with substance use disorder.

We know that because we see the fallout of addiction daily at Alpine Recovery Lodge.

We often get calls from people who want to know if they should force the person they love into recovery. What we can say is that there’s much misinformation about this topic in general,

In some states, involuntary commitment is considered a civil rights violation – and there are other potential downsides to forced rehab or forced detox.

So, with that in mind, let’s talk about the reality of forced drug or alcohol rehab as a way for someone you love to get treatment for their substance use disorder.

Continue reading to learn more.

What States Can You Force Someone Into Rehab?

First, you need to know that involuntary commitment is more difficult in some states than others. Most states have a process for people who have severe mental illness.

In some states, the standards for involuntary commitment are very high. You may need to prove that the person struggling with substance use disorder is dangerous to themselves or others to get a judge to agree to send them to rehab against their will.

It is essential to know that the laws of each state around forced rehab differ significantly.

Currently, the states that allow forced detox for alcoholism or substance use disorder are:

  • Alaska
  • California
  • Colorado
  • Connecticut
  • Delaware
  • Florida
  • Georgia
  • Hawaii
  • Indiana
  • Iowa
  • Kansas
  • Kentucky
  • Louisiana
  • Maine
  • Minnesota
  • Mississippi
  • Missouri
  • North Carolina
  • North Dakota
  • Oklahoma
  • Pennsylvania
  • Rhode Island
  • South Carolina
  • South Dakota
  • Tennessee
  • Texas
  • Vermont
  • Virginia
  • Washington
  • West Virginia
  • Wisconsin

If you reside in any of these states, your best first step is to contact a substance use treatment center or lawyer for detailed steps to handle forced rehab. If your state is not listed, check with your local government or treatment center to see how you can get your loved one the treatment they need now, even if they refuse to get help on their own.

How to Admit Someone to Rehab Against Their Will

Sometimes, people are forced into recovery by the court. For example, some states will offer people convicted of drunk driving an expungement of their record by attending treatment.

The one situation where involuntary commitment is almost always possible is when the person struggling with substance use disorder is a minor.

A person under 18 can be sent by a parent or legal guardian to recover whether they want to go or not. To do so, you must work with substance use specialists, your family, and your child’s pediatrician. In some states, legal intervention may also be required.

When Should You Consider Forced Rehab for a Loved One?

Sometimes, forcing a loved one into recovery may be the best choice. Let’s discuss some signs that forced rehab may be called for.

You’ve Tried Other Methods

The first thing to ask is whether you’ve tried to get your loved one into recovery using other methods. Forced rehab should never be your first step. It’s an extreme measure and should be treated as such.

Other things that you might try first are

  • A one-on-one conversation where you talk to the person about recovery and why you think they need help
  • A staged intervention with family members and friends
  • A professional intervention with an addiction or mental health specialist

If you’ve tried these things without success, then forced detox might be the only thing that will work.

Your Loved One Dangerous to Themselves or Others

The next thing to ask is whether the person struggling with substance use disorder is dangerous to themselves or others. The danger is the standard for involuntary commitment in many states. It’s a way of safeguarding people who cannot control their behavior.

For example, if your loved one got behind the wheel of a car, blacked out, and had a single-car accident, that might indicate that they need forced rehab. The accident could have been worse, and you don’t want to tempt fate.

Another scenario that might call for forced detox is if the person you love is neglecting their children because of addiction. (Another option here might be to contact your local Child Protective Services office and report them).

You may also want to consider forced rehab if your loved one exhibits self-harming or psychotic behavior due to drug use. These situations clearly illustrate that the person in question is potentially dangerous.

It May Help Them Avoid Worse Consequences

Sometimes, someone with substance use disorder is forced into recovery because they’re given an alternative worse than the thought of getting treatment. For example

  • They’re convicted of a crime and allowed to expunge their record by getting treatment
  • They’ll lose their job if they’re not actively seeking treatment
  • They’ll lose custody of their children if they don’t seek treatment

These things may be enough to consider forced rehab. This might be regarded as the “carrot and stick” method, where rehab is the carrot.

When Is Forced Detox a Bad Idea?

You may ask yourself, “When is it bad to force someone you love into recovery?”

The first indication is that you haven’t tried anything else.

Forced rehab should rarely be your first choice. It should be considered a last resort. If you haven’t already tried an intervention, don’t consider forced detox unless there’s a compelling reason to do so.

Likewise, if the person you love is willing to talk about their issues or admit they have a problem, forcing them into rehab probably isn’t the answer. They may already be on their way to recovery. If you try to push them, it can backfire on you.

If you’re unwilling to be the bad guy in the situation, that’s another reason to hold off. Someone who honestly doesn’t want to go into recovery may resent you for forcing their hand. You must be willing to be the one to take the heat if you try to force them to do something they don’t want to do.

Finally, you must be willing to offer your loved one full support if they go into recovery. You shouldn’t force them if you intend to wash your hands of them once they commit to treatment. They may push you away, but you’ve got to be ready to step in if they need you — and to support them when they’re out of rehab.

Can Forced Recovery Work?

It’s a misconception that someone with substance use disorder must be ready for recovery before it can be effective. That may be the case for some people, but it’s a mistake to think that forced rehab can’t be effective. It can.

Most recovery programs work on the idea that those with substance use disorder must admit their addiction to heal. A person forced into recovery may be combative and angry at first — and realizing they have a problem may not be something they can do.

However, it’s also true that sometimes the simple detoxification process can clear their head to the point where they can admit they have a problem.

Detox is a painful process, but some drugs work on the brain, so they can’t think clearly when they’re high.

In other words, addressing the physiological aspect of addiction may help some cope with the mental and emotional factors.

Another argument favoring forced rehab is that some treatment is better than no treatment.

Even if the person with substance use disorder doesn’t fully commit to treatment, they’ll attend group and individual therapy and hear some positive things about the possibility of overcoming addiction.

Most people who enter rehab voluntarily overcome their addictions. The margin with people forced into rehab is slim, especially if the person in recovery won’t (or can’t) admit they have a problem and need help.

Some might argue that a slim chance is better than none. It’s infrequent for someone to kick an addiction without help. A few might be able to reach sobriety by attending 12-step meetings, but for many others, an inpatient treatment facility gives them the best possible chance of success.

Effective and Compassionate Treatment for Substance Use Disorder Is Here

In some cases, forced recovery may be effective. It’s undoubtedly the only choice if you have a minor child struggling with addiction, and it may also be an option for people who are a danger to themselves and others.

To learn more about the treatment options at Alpine Recovery Lodge, contact us today. Our team is here to discuss starting your road to recovery sooner.