Forcing Someone Into Rehab - Is It A Good Idea?
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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

View 25 Responses to “Can You Force Someone Into Rehab And Is It A Good Idea?”

Im kind of torn on what to do. One part of me feels that you should force the person. On the other hand you wonder if you force the person if they will receive the treatment well while in rehab. My gut says that most people need a little nudge in order to go. Thats why jail can be so effective because it dries them out and gets them to realize that they have a serious addiction problem and need help.

Either way, you need to do whatever it takes to get a person into a rehab because the other option could be death.

I think forcing someone into a rehab center will not work for that person. Just think that if someone is forced to do a work without interest then will it be useful? We should try to convince people going to rehab centers rather than forcing them.

I have a grandson who will be 30 next month. 2 years ago he had a mental breakdown (severe depression, severe loss of weight, severe fear). He was convinced someone hacked into his TV guide and was threatening him. He was convinced he was on video camera all the time. After 3 weeks of this he landed in the mental hospital for 3 months. He was diagnosed as a Paranoid Schitzo and they put him on Latuda. He was finally released into my custody and was supposed to continue taking the Latuda. Of course, he did not. He said it made him more hyper than he already was. He was able to maintain a job for 1 1/2 years before he had another break and lost it. While he was working I helped him buy a car. Needless to say, I am now stuck with the payments. I finally had to evict him from my apartment and management will not allow him to return. He sleeps in his car whenever he doesn’t have a motel or somewhere to stay, which is the majority of the time. He got a job last week and after one day, lost it. He has an alcohol problem whenever he gets his hands on cash. He maintains “the hospital put a microchip in my eye and a camera in my head” and gets extremely aggitated about it. After 3 months of sleeping in his car and becoming non-responsive for the most part, we intervened by having the police take him in and he was sent to Pikes Peak Behavioral Health on Powers and Woodman. They got a court order to force meds, etc on him. After a month they released him only to have him now going thru it all over again. He is very defiant and refused to admit he is an alcoholic and a mental case. I am at my witts end!

he allways think with himself have camera & microchip….. solution is… tell him go to Doctor and take x-ry… bcos in x-ry report camera & microchip must to show if he really Carry those things….. good luck…….

Hello Anne,

I am 52 years old, have a well paying job, etc…
I have also been going through severe anxiety (fear)due to a variety of occurences that took place in my life and how my mind processes thoughts. I feel for you and your grandson. No one is fully prepared to handle these types of situations and it’s very thoughtful of you attempting to help your grandson. From my personal experience it appears your grandson may have deep underlying issues that have caused his brain to react. Alcohol does not resolve these types of problems, but it does provide temporary relief to your grandson. Medications can provide the same relief, but they have a long list of side effects. I tried two drugs that increased anxiety, just as it did for your grandson, which is counter intuitive. It’s truely unfortunate that these types of health care issues due not receive the same attention as cancer or heart disease. Often good hearted Americans are confined to jail due to the lack of healthcare in the US. I hope this does not happey to your grandson.
I wish I could offer sound advise to you and your grandson. Staying positive is the only thing I can offer.
Good luck,

My son has had an heavy drinking problem since he was in his early teens, and he is now 27. It started with social drinking, and even though he drank a lot, he managed to maintain high grades in high school and in college, and had many friends and activities. About 4 years ago, his long-time girlfriend broke up with him, and he began having severe panic attacks and anxiety attacks. He began taking Xanax for them, and drinking A LOT. I was not totally aware of how much he was drinking then, since he lived about an hour away, and seemed to be holding down a difficult job in the school system. 2 years ago, my partner, who my son adored, was diagnosed with terminal cancer, and that kind was the final straw. Throughout Mike’s illness,apparently my son was doing many different drugs, including heroin, and got addicted to suboxone. When my partner died in December of 2014, Clancy was obviously so drunk and stoned he looked half dead, and stumbled around crying and mumbling constantly. Myself and my ex-husband (my son’s dad), and several of Clancy’s friends did an intervention, and tried to get him to go to a rehab center to get clean. He wouldn’t go, and since Vermont has strict laws about forcing someone into rehab, he couldn’t be forced to go.He did agree to see a therapist, and he did stop the suboxone, in April he had a heroin overdose (actually laced with fentanal–sp) and nearly died. He hasn’t done any heroin since, and says he won’t, but 10 days ago, after going to a festival and drinking more than he has in a while and not eating,sleeping or generally taking care of himself, then coming home to work the next day in gruesome heat mowing lawns, he went to play baseball in the evening, and keeled over with a tonic-clonic seizure. Labs at the hospital showed no drugs in his system, but his liver doesn’t look great. Neither my ex-husband or myself are drinkers or druggies, nor was my partner. I have said my son can’t live here if he is going to abuse himself this way, because it’s killing me. I have epilepsy, and so I know alcohol and drugs are horrible triggers for him having another seizure. I have tried logic, and urged him to go to a program, but he won’t go. I cant watch and wait for him to have another seizure, because he won’t stop drinking. Drinking is his drug of choice, I would say. Even knowing he could give himself a seizure, today he is dead-drunk. I am heartsick.

Hi Gale,

I am an alcoholic. I just stumbled upon this site as i was looking for treatment ctrs and found this intriguing article. Gale, your story really speaks to me; i am 27 at this writing. I deal with severe anxiety and depression. I live at home with my parents. I self medicate with alcohol. I cant believe im in my late 20s and have so little to show for it. i’d rather curl up in a ball, watch netfflix and drink rather than see my friends or even talk to my parents. Sometimes i feel like its harder to try and care/love someone than to just isolate. For me, its harder to love others because of fear of letting them down. and so, isolation seems like a good game. I am so far from perfect…

as i type this, I am drinking my first beer of the day (not happily). Gale, you remind me of my mom, whom i love so so so much. I can see the pain it causes her as i continue to drink…. I hate myself for it. she has done everything to try and help me. Im an extremely logical person….but when it comes to substance abuse, all rational thought goes out the window. for a non-addict, this makes NO sense. i cant tell you how many times my mother has gotten at me about this; she just cant understand why such a logical person makes such illogical decisions. That is the disease. it is insanity.

Gale, I hope you and your son get thru all of this. I’m trying to do the same with my mom. She is the world to me.

I put this out for discussion. We have often heard relapse is part of recovery. I did inpatient about 9 months ago. I have had the cleanest year of my life. out of the entire year, I have probably drank 20 days out of the last 365. I stopped drinking every day, as i had been previously. For me, this is progress…. slow, but much better than it was. BUT; in this year of really trying, i feel like my parents never have anything good to say… i know they are also worn out too. ….addiction is a family disease.

so ya. its been a real hard year. a real doozy.

What do you guys think about relapsing during recovery?


Jack. (((Hugs)))

Hi Jack
Thanks for sharing. My son has done his share of drugs. He’s been in the hospital twice for hurting himself. He wanted help but after being released was clean for 4 months and started again. He started experimenting according to him but its become a pattern, clean a few months then back again. He refuses rehab for “he’s not an addict”. I take it a day at a time. I do anything and everything to help him but it has to come out of him! I commend you for wanting and trying to get better. Don’t give up. It may seem difficult but you can do it. Seek the help you need for you can’t do it alone. As for your parents I’m sure they adore you. They are just hurting and want the best for you. I’ve gotten angry and disappointed at my son but only because its not what I want for him. He’s a great kid whose is loved by so many. He’s smart, articulate, very good looking (and I’m not saying that because he’s my kid) and quite charming. I guarantee you that your parents will embrace you and praise you if you were completely clean. Show them you’re willing to “fix this”. You say your mom is your world YOU ARE HER WORLD!!!!! A lot of people relapse but you are still trying which is key. Don’ t give up. Don’t look back. Don’t feel guilty about you’re past or what you’ve done. Hey we all mess up at some point or another. Learn from it. Hard blows teach us good lessons. You will be an example one day of how you can change your life around and gain what you’ve lost. You will help someone one day that is going thru the same because you walked in those shoes once!!! Good luck stay strong. I believe in God and prayer helps!!! Faith is key. Be well Jack God bless you. Please keep working on making your mom smile!!!!

I think forcing someone into rehab should be an option in every state. My 18-year-old sister just overdosed on heroin a couple months ago. Her heart stopped for three minutes, but they were finally able to revive her. She was doing really good until last week when our mother (who I didn’t know was using again) overdosed on coke that was laced with heroin. Our mother is fine, but I don’t know if seeing what our mom went through is what caused her to relapse… She’s so young. She just graduated from high school, and we are all worried about her. Our grandmother thought there was a law in our state where we could force her into rehab if we got three signatures from family members. I haven’t found anything… I’m so worried about her.

Sarah, which state are you in? We can have someone contact you via the email address you provided so that we may be able to assist you better. Also, please feel free to call us at 800-570-3670 ASAP!

My brother is a drug addict since very long time. He is very aggresive and when he takes drugs he becomes more aggresive and can do anything possible at that moment. He is taking drugs since very long time about 4-5 years back. He has quit it for many a times and than he couldn’t stop himself and started taking it all over again he couldn’t help himself to leave it permanently. Can we force him in rehab and will it work well without his concern. Because he will never agree to shift to a rehab to clean his addiction. Please reply back

Dipraneil, we are here to help! A treatment specialist will contact you via the email address you provided ASAP. If you would prefer to speak with someone over the phone, please call 800-570-3670 immediately.

I am writing on behalf of my 88 year old aunt who lives in Michigan. She has a 55 year old female acquaintance, an alcoholic, who my aunt hasn’t seen in three years. This acquaintance called my aunt from the hospital a few weeks ago and needed a ride because she said that someone had stolen her car. This woman does not remember who took her to the hospital. We think she was admitted due to the alcohol, but my Aunt doesn’t know who did it. She was there for only two days when she called my Aunt. You probably know where this is going. This acquaintance, lost her driver’s license, had been evicted from her apartment, the boyfriend (another drinker) won’t talk to her and her two children won’t either. And her car hasn’t been driven in a long time. All this information was revealed after my Aunt drove her to the police station and the boyfriend’s house. She is mentally confused and psychically skin and bones. Everyone she knows has abandoned her except my caring Aunt who took her in for eleven days. Because my Aunt couldn’t deal with her anymore, she took the woman to a local motel. My Aunt has called Catholic Charities and the Salvation Army but the woman must volunteer to go. She won’t do that. Also, Michigan law says that an individual cannot be involuntarily committed to a rehab facility. Sadly, this woman keeps calling for a ride, but my Aunt declines. What to do? This is too sad. I think she will die in that awful motel. And my Aunt, of course, feels so guilty. It seems horrible in this day and age someone like that doesn’t have a place to go. She is homeless.
I understand why families get fed up with drug addicts and alcoholics I have been through it myself. But I don’t understand how children can abandon a parent. So sad. Any suggestions or thoughts?
Loving Niece
abandon their own mother. Please respond. Thank you, Loving Niece

Susan, we will have a treatment specialist reach out to you!

In Oklahoma can you force a 42 year old into rehab. My son has a drug addiction but he will not admit to it. He’s very defensive very argumentative. He is not the person he use to be. How can I get help. It’s taking a total on his children.

Priscilla, we will have a treatment specialist reach out to you as soon as possible!

I have a 17 year old we live in ms courts ordered her to rehab she has done many drugs was assaulted moves away from home I have her back now but the laws limit me to do very little she dropped out of school and is still using but only pot now but I’m sure it will lead to more again because she knows there is really very little I can do she stayed in a behavior/rehab for only 9 days our state seems to have no beds open anywhere and my county office where we live even offered to pay it’s a shame I can’t find help


Please call us a 888-757-5052. We have a wonderful treatment center in Mississippi that we can get your daughter in right away. We hope we can help your family!

Pracilla I would like to know the same I live in Oklahoma as well I’m 42 I quit cold turkey a few months ago which I do not advise after 2years of a pint of kd a night now my twin whom drinks at least a pint and a half a night is going through the same thing but worse he won’t stop… Can I force it on him?

I think being forced could work for some people but could also be catastrophic for others. Personally my sister was court ordered to go to rehab in order to get custody of her children. She did have a pretty big reason to go, her children, but she was also very addicted to heroin which single handedly destroyed her life and was responsible for her husbands death and her overdosing twice. Since being ordered to go she now been clean for coming up on 3 year, she now has visitation rights with her children and is still working on getting full custody. Like stated she had a big reason to go, her children, and I believe this was one of the main reasons shes made it this far. Really I think its up to the person in regards to whether or not they’ll remain sober after being forced into rehab. Very interesting post, I shared it on Facebook and got a lot of interaction with a lot of my friends and family. Thanks again!

I think studies have shown that being forced into rehab doesn’t work. An individual needs to want to recover before recovery can ever take place. Often, spite and anger overpower any will to get better when someone’s forced into rehab. I think this is why explaining the scenario and showing someone why rehab would benefit them is the preferred path. But that’s my two cents. I’ll see what everyone else thinks.

This is an interesting topic. On one hand, no one should ever b e forced to do something against their will. On the other hand, sometimes extreme measure need to be taken in order to create positive change. It seems like court ordered rehab falls more in to the category of coercion, as many people in recovery will tell you that entering recovery takes an internal realization.

I am very torn as my loved one has an addiction that is tearing the family apart. I have seen him go from a loving person to someone whom can’t or chooses not to .control his anger. I do believe that sometimes that forced rehab is nessecary to try and help them to regain some part if who they used to be and can detox and prehaps make the healthy choice of wanting to continue this road to recovery eith all the support of their loved ones. Yes people are going to be resentful for a long time but if they really eork the program they may just come to see you loved them enough to step up and possibly forgo a relationship with them to try and save their life by taking a stand and showing some tough love . I would truly love it if my loved one got some help on their own I dont like the thought of forcing someone into a place they don’t want to be but if they are to stand a chance at life they need to be given the righ tools and Presario. To go out into this world armed with the knowledge and tools and support to make healthy choices about their

Great Post! This is a very interesting topic because someone should never be forced into something but when it comes to addiction it takes a lot for someone to seek out the treatment they need. So I can see why forcing someone into treatment could save them from addiction but I can also see that person rebelling and retaliating because they were forced into treatment. My cousin was somewhat forced to go to rehab and he refused at first but after some reflection he fully participated and has now been clean for a little five years. So I can see the pro’s and the con’s of this but I also feel in certain situation people need to be forced into getting help because they won’t seek help on their own. Great post, it really made me think about how I would feel if I were forced into something.

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