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Will My Loved One Actually Stay Sober if I Force Them to Go to Rehab?

does forced rehab workAddiction is a devastating and far-reaching condition that affects everyone who loves the addict. When a loved one struggles with addiction, you may be desperate to explore all of the different ways you can convince them to go to rehab. You may confront your loved one in private, set strict boundaries, and even stage an intervention. However, if your addicted loved one still refuses to go to rehab, you may take the next step in forcing them to do so.

Nearly every U.S. state has involuntary commitment laws that allow people to force their loved ones into a drug treatment facility. But does forced rehab really work? Will your loved one actually stay sober after being forced to go to rehab or does rehab need to be voluntary to be effective? These are popular questions that race through the minds of people who love an addict.

The good news is rehab does not need to be voluntary to be effective. While it certainly helps if the patient is eager and willing to participate in treatment, this is not a requirement for maintaining sobriety.

The Controversy About Forcing Loved Ones to Go to Rehab

There are many reasons you may be scared to legally commit your loved one to a drug and alcohol treatment facility. Often, people believe that forced rehab won’t work or that their loved ones will relapse the second they leave treatment. Others are afraid of how their loved ones will react. You may be afraid your loved one will retaliate with anger or resentment. After all, nobody wants to be the bad guy.

What is important to remember is that, sometimes, you have to be the “bad guy” to save someone’s life. If sending your loved one to rehab is going to prevent them from overdosing or going to jail, it’s worth the temporary anger they may feel towards you.

It’s also equally important to remember that relapse does not equal failure. Even the best addiction treatment centers in the nation treat individuals who leave their facility and relapse. Remember, addiction is a chronic disease, and like other chronic diseases, relapse is expected for many people. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), between 40-60% of people who complete substance abuse treatment relapse.[1] That includes people who went to rehab voluntarily and those who were forced into treatment against their will.

Instead of viewing relapse as a failure, it’s important to view relapse as a learning opportunity. Relapse simply means there is some aspect of a person’s recovery program that needs to be altered to meet their specific needs.

When Is Forced Rehab a Good Idea?

While it’s always best to send someone to rehab on their own will, this isn’t always possible. Some people don’t develop the motivation to stay sober until they have gone through detox and achieve a more stable, clear mindset.

There are several circumstances during which forcing someone to go to treatment is a good idea, such as:

  • Your loved one is a danger to others
  • Your loved one is a danger to themselves
  • Your loved one is incapable of providing adequate care for themselves and is not in the right headspace to make a sound decision regarding his or her care
  • Your loved one is living in an unsafe environment where his or her well-being may be at risk
  • You have already tried other methods of getting your loved one to go to rehab, such as an intervention or confrontation

Does Forced Rehab Actually Work?

Although studies have found that treatment is more effective when patients enter willingly, this doesn’t mean forced rehab doesn’t work.[2] According to the Principles of Effective Drug Addiction Treatment outlined by the NIDA, substance abuse treatment does not need to be voluntary to be effective.[3]

NIDA’s website explains, “Sanctions or enticements from family, employment settings, and/or the criminal justice system can significantly increase treatment entry, retention rates, and the ultimate success of drug treatment interventions.”

You see, even when an addict goes to rehab involuntarily, they are placed in a safe, supportive, and sober environment. They are also surrounded by other individuals who were in the same position at one point or another. Your loved one can connect with these peers in a safe setting and begin to learn from them. They may even gain the inspiration and motivation to embark on a life-long recovery journey.

Even if your loved one experiences a relapse after treatment, he or she will know where and who to turn to when help is wanted. The treatment program will educate your loved one about recovery-related resources, harm-reduction resources, and affordable counseling options that can provide assistance on an outpatient basis.

Also, giving your loved one a taste of sobriety could make them eager to get sober in the future. This is because rehab will allow them to connect with other sober individuals and see that life really can be enjoyable and fun without drugs and alcohol. A good treatment program can plant a seed of hope in your addicted loved one to show them that recovery is possible.

Find Support for Yourself or an Addicted Loved One Today

If you are considering forced rehab for a loved one but are unsure if it is the right time, our team of dedicated addiction specialists can help. Simply pick up the phone, give us a call, and let us help guide the way.



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We know that overcoming addiction is not easy and requires courage to ask for help. At Woburn Wellness Addiction Treatment, our team of professionals has decades of combined experience in helping men, women, and families overcome substance abuse.

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