Watching a loved one struggle with addiction is stressful and painful. Unfortunately, addiction often leads to an array of negative consequences, such as physical and mental health problems, strained relationships, financial difficulties, and legal troubles. In some cases, individuals struggling with addiction may refuse to seek treatment, which can ultimately make their substance abuse even more harmful.
When you love someone, you want to do anything you can to help, but what do you do when the person you are trying to help doesn’t want help? Can you send a loved one struggling with addiction to rehab against their will?
Forced rehab is a controversial topic, but like any major decision, there are pros and cons. Although it can be difficult to persuade someone to go to rehab when they don’t want to go, many states have laws in place that allow family members to commit loved ones to an involuntary rehab program.
Different States Have Different Laws About Involuntary Rehab
Committing someone to involuntary rehab refers to the practice of sending someone to rehab without their consent–usually with a court order. Depending on where you live, you may be able to force your loved one to go to rehab. In 2023, 37 states and D.C. have some form of involuntary commitment laws for substance abuse treatment. These include:
- New Hampshire
- New Jersey
- New Mexico
- New York
- North Carolina
- North Dakota
Each state has its own unique practices when it comes to forcing someone to go to rehab. Some states require you to provide more evidence of a substance use disorder than others, and the amount of time they will keep a person in treatment may vary.
In most states, involuntary commitment is only allowed when an individual is deemed a danger to themselves or others. To prove this, families must get a court order or a petition from a mental health professional. The majority of states also require a hearing to determine whether the individual meets the criteria for commitment and which level of care they should attend.
Looking at the Legal and Ethical Considerations of Involuntary Drug and Alcohol Rehab
While sending someone to rehab against their will may seem like a good idea in certain situations, such as when your loved one’s life is in danger or they may harm someone else, it is still a highly controversial topic with many important yet complex legal and ethical considerations. Is it okay to force someone to do something they don’t want to do? What if their life is in danger? Will treatment even work if someone doesn’t want help? These are all questions friends and family of addicts may have.
For some people, involuntary commitment raises questions about personal autonomy and the right to make decisions about their own life. Opponents of the idea argue that forcing someone into a drug and alcohol rehab center is a violation of their rights and can cause more harm than good. They also argue that people who are forced to go to rehab may feel resentful or resistant, which could stop them from making progress in their treatment program. In other words, involuntary rehab may not always be effective if people are not fully committed to their recovery because they are not motivated to stay sober.
On the other hand, proponents of involuntary commitment to substance abuse treatment argue that forced rehab is absolutely necessary, especially if someone’s life is in danger. After all, people who are stuck in the midst of a severe addiction may not be able to make rational and informed decisions about their health or treatment. In cases such as these, sending someone to rehab against their will feels like the only option to prevent the individual from causing harm to themselves or others.
Does Sending Someone to Rehab Against Their Will Actually Work?
Some people are very resistant to treatment, so if they are forced to go to rehab, they may bite their tongue and attend therapy sessions, but not put in any work to make real progress. Others may be reluctant at first, but gradually open up to the recovery process once they start to feel better themselves and see other people in rehab begin to improve their lives.
Oftentimes, simply going to rehab, meeting other sober people, and learning a little bit about addiction and recovery is enough to make a person who previously didn’t want help start to want a sober life. It is always best to try to get your loved one to go to rehab rather than to let them continue struggling.
Is There Any Way to Convince My Loved One to Go to Rehab?
While involuntary rehabilitation may be the only viable option in certain situations, it should always be considered a last resort. There are ways to try and convince your loved one to go to rehab willingly before forcing them to go.
One of the most effective alternatives is to stage an intervention. An addiction intervention is a structured conversation in which loved ones express their concerns about an individual’s addiction and encourage them to seek treatment. An intervention can be a powerful tool in helping someone realize the severity of their addiction, how it impacts other people, and why it’s important to go to rehab.
Another alternative is to get your loved one to schedule a doctor’s appointment to discuss their substance abuse or to ask your loved one to speak with an admissions counselor from a rehab center on the phone. Having a third-party, expert opinion can help individuals realize the need for treatment.
Find Help for an Addicted Loved One
At Woburn Wellness, our talented admissions specialists are available 24 hours a day to assess your loved one’s needs, verify their insurance, and help them start their recovery journey. If someone you love is struggling with addiction or if you have questions about the process of getting them into rehab, please contact us today.