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Can you Force Someone into Rehab?

By Linda Whiteside

Medically Reviewed by: Dr. Ryan Peterson

Table of Contents

Husband and wife talking about going to drug rehab in Los Angeles

Forcing Someone to Go to Rehab

When someone you love is struggling with drug or alcohol abuse, you generally want to do everything in your power to make them better. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, approximately 4% of Americans met the criteria for drug addiction in the last year – and approximately 10% met the conditions for drug use disorder at least some point in their lives. Tragically, only 75% of these individuals ever engage in any kind of treatment for their substance use disorder.

If you are watching a close friend or family member suffer from a substance use disorder and continually damage their life, you may be wondering if it is possible to make them get treatment. The answer to that question is complicated.

Finding out if Someone is Addicted to Drugs

Forcing someone to go to rehab is an enormous undertaking. It is important to confirm that the person you’re worried about has an addiction to drugs in the first place. Common conceptions of what “drug addiction” looks like are very different from reality. First and foremost, it is critical to understand that drug and alcohol addiction can affect anyone, no matter their age, socioeconomic status, or appearance. Some people may superficially appear functional in their everyday lives but are suffering behind the scenes. Secondly, the amount of drugs or alcohol a person takes is not what determines if they have an addiction.

If you are concerned about a friend or loved one, the best place to start is an honest conversation. Without judgment, express your concerns and anxieties about how they’re living their lives. In the best case, they will be honest with you about their struggles. In the worst case, they won’t – but your concern may still have an impact. If they are honest with you, there is a chance they may be willing to attend rehab without having to be involuntarily committed. If they are dishonest or dismissive of your concerns, you may need to consider other options.

When Do People Need Rehab?

Ultimately, addiction is defined primarily by two main qualities. It entails a lack of control. Addicts are unable to regulate and manage their own intake of drugs and alcohol. Some addicts have a strong desire to reduce their usage or quit entirely, but they find that they are unable to do so on their own. No amount of individual willpower is sufficient to combat a drug addiction – since substance use disorder is a mental health condition that affects the parts of the brain that control motivation and decision-making. Secondly, addiction leads to negative consequences. Even if a person doesn’t appear to be drinking or doing drugs as much as others, if their substance abuse causes damage to their lives, then there is a problem.

Addiction is a spectrum condition with a wide range of levels of severity. However, just because a person’s addiction is mild does not mean they do not need treatment. Substance use disorders are progressive illnesses that tend to get worse over time. In fact, catching an addiction early makes it far easier to recover and prevent more dangerous consequences from developing. Quality rehabs recognize that all addictions are different, and treatment programs offer a wide range of levels of care to help people with different addiction severity levels.

Can You Force Someone into Rehab in California?

The question of whether you can involuntarily commit someone into rehab ultimately depends on your state of residence. Different states in the United States set different policies and regulations for involuntary mental health commitment. At the moment, there are currently 37 states that allow some form of this. California is one of them.

In California, a person can be ordered by the court to go into rehabilitation for a period of time. This is called being ordered into rehab in California and it is typically done as part of probation for drug offenses and DUI offenses.

However, involuntary commitment is not just a simple matter of deciding to send someone to rehab. While it is fairly simple for parents of minors to do so, it is difficult to send adults to rehab if they do not want to. In most states, courts must approve of the involuntary commitment. If you are interested in forcing your loved one into rehab, you must provide some form of proof that they have a substance use disorder. Additionally, you will be asked to provide proof that the individual in question has harmed themselves or others as a result of their addiction. Courts generally only approve involuntary rehab if there is evidence that the individual in question will be a danger to themselves or others if they are not sent to rehab.

Since this is a somewhat challenging process, it is important to be ready to face a possible court battle if you are really interested in forcing someone into rehab.

The Real Question Is: Should You Force Someone into Rehab?

Whether it is possible to send someone to rehab against their wishes is a less important question than whether you should send someone to rehab against their wishes. Ultimately, the biggest question is whether rehab is effective if it is not voluntary. Individuals who decide to seek treatment on their own have plenty of motivation and desire to get sober, fix their relationships, and rebuild their lives. Can an involuntarily committed person make those same changes if they don’t start off with the same motivation? Does rehab work if a person is forced to go?

According to a study published by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Organization (SAMHSA), approximately 33% of rehab clients were forced to go by the court system. Despite being involuntarily committed, these individuals were found to have similar rates of relapse to people who were not forced to go to rehab.

Can a Hospital Force You to Go to Rehab?

Depending on a person’s state of residence, a hospital can force them to go to rehab. Like families, however, hospitals must make a legal case that rehab is a necessary step to prevent them from harming themselves or others. If the hospital is unable to convince a court of law with sufficient evidence, then the individual has the right to consent to or refuse treatment on their own.

What Can You Do to Help Someone Without Forcing them into Rehab?

While forcing someone into rehab is sometimes a necessary step, it should be undertaken as a last resort, in part because it is somewhat challenging, but also because it has several drawbacks. Forcing a loved one into rehab can put a strain on your relationship with them. For this reason, it is best to pursue other options before involuntary commitment. Interventions are an approach that is both evidence-based and less likely to damage relationships. Interventions, which are best run by professional addiction experts, involve getting a large group of loved ones together to share their concerns. By coming together to express their concerns on a loving and nonjudgmental basis, family members and friends can encourage an addicted person to make a change without having to resort to force.

NuView Treatment Center in Los Angeles, CA is Here to Help

At NuView Treatment Center, an outpatient rehab program in West Los Angeles, we recognize that addiction is a serious mental health disorder that requires treatment at any stage. If you are worried about your friend or family member and their addiction, it is never too early to seek help. Even if they are not ready to agree to treatment, we are available to be a resource and help you explore treatment options for them. The staff members at NuView Treatment center are experienced with all addictions and addiction severities. We also place enormous emphasis on working with family members to help ensure that they feel supported just as much as their addicted loved ones do.

If you are confused about how you can best help your addicted son, daughter, or friend, reach out to us at NuView Treatment Center and let us work with you to find the ideal solution – whether that involves involuntary commitment or another, softer approach. No matter how a person gets to treatment, the important thing to keep in mind is that recovery is possible.

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Author

Written By: Linda Whiteside
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Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor who has been providing mental health services for over 10 years.

Medically reviewed by: Dr. Ryan Peterson
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Went to medical school at The George Washington University School of Medicine in Washington, D.C.

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