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Can You Force Someone Into Rehab And Is It A Good Idea?

Isaac Alexis, M.D., AAMA, AMP-BC

Medically reviewed by

Isaac Alexis, M.D., AAMA, AMP-BC

January 17, 2019

Watching a loved one struggle with drug or alcohol addiction can be extremely painful. Such addictions can damage personal relationships and lead to life-threatening consequences. As a concerned friend, spouse, or relative, it is understandable to want to help. Before approaching a loved one, it is important to understand all aspects of involuntary rehab and what it can mean for them.

Is Involuntary Rehab An Option?

First of all, one must understand that this may not even be an option depending on where you live. Each state has different laws that outline the steps that can be taken towards getting a loved one into therapy. In many places, involuntary treatment is considered a violation of civil liberties, and the only way to recovery is for the addict themselves to seek help. The case of Addington v. Texas is one example of a trial that has made it more difficult for families to seek forced rehab, after an abundance of involuntary admissions in the 1960s.

Recently, on the other side of things, is the Florida Marchman Act that was put into effect in order to aid families in getting their loved ones needed assistance. Thus, there has been a lot of giving and taking in the judicial system over this issue.

So before you even consider the option of involuntary rehab, make sure that you research the state you live in order to understand the steps available to you and your family. Look up your state legislation here.

Should I Pursue Involuntary Rehab?

If your state does indeed allow some form of involuntary rehab, then you have to understand the consequences of such a process. You need to assess whether it is a good idea in your specific situation, or if it will cause more harm than good.

Some things to consider:

  • Is the addict willing to talk about their addiction or even admit to it? If so, then forced rehab probably isn’t the first step. Instead, try to sit down and reason with them to come to terms with their drug or alcohol abuse.
  • Have you considered and tried other options? One step to attempt before involuntary treatment is a professional intervention. Trained counselors and psychologists can help you and your family confront the person struggling with addiction and convince them to get help.
  • Are you willing to be the “bad guy”? Those who are forced into treatment may hold a grudge or harbor resentment for those who put them there. They may be purposefully defiant with their treatment because they feel as if they are being ganged up on. One must be willing to stand upon their principles and not waver.
  • Can you offer them your full support? If you are going to submit them for treatment, then you must support their recovery every step of the way. It can be a timely and emotional process, so one has to be fully invested in getting their loved one help.
  • Is this the last resort? One has to be 100% confident that forced rehabilitation is what is needed. Be wary when considering involuntary treatment. It should be treated as a last line of defense, but definitely exercised if the addict may also have a mental illness or is physically harming themselves or those around them.

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Does Involuntary Rehab Work?

Whether forced treatment will work or not is another matter altogether, with varying opinions on the matter. Many programs follow the belief that to fully recover from drug or alcohol abuse, the user must admit that they have a problem. In forced rehab, the addict may be combative and in denial of such abuse and thus cannot begin the healing process. However, receiving treatment for the physiological addiction, such as detoxification, can alter their denial, and thus get them fully on the path to sobriety. Unfortunately, curing the physical side of it doesn’t always lead to a mental cure.

On the other side of things, one must also consider the idea that some help, whether it is defied or not, is better than no help at all. If the abuser is constantly endangering their life and the lives of those around them, then the step towards involuntary treatment is one that should be heavily considered. One should take into account all possibilities of helping their friend or family member take back control of their life and stop hurting themselves.

Forced Rehab – A Last Resort

Each case of abuse must be taken into individual consideration. If you have exhausted all other options and are considering involuntary rehab, you must understand that this will be a battle in itself; it’s going to be a difficult journey getting someone into rehab who doesn’t think they need to be there. Be sure to educate yourself on programs in your area, and let your loved one understand that you are doing this because you care about their well-being and only want to help get their addiction under control.

Finally, seek professional help and devise a plan to get them the help they need. It is of the utmost importance to get your loved one treatment for their addiction; contact us here at for information on involuntary rehab.

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Justia - US Supreme Court - Addington v. Texas, 441 U.S. 418 (1979) - THE 12 STEPS OF RECOVERY

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