Can Drug Rehab Be Forced?

More than 20 million people in the United States have a case of drug addiction, or more properly known as substance use disorder. Drug rehab is the most effective way to manage this disorder. However, only about ten percent of people suffering from substance use disorder are going through treatment.

Not enough people are receiving drug rehab, even if they really need it. Some of those with substance use disorder even refuse treatment. So is it a good idea to force them to enroll in a drug rehab program? Let’s take a closer look.

What is “forcing” someone into drug rehab?

Drug RehabThe first thing to understand is the definition of “force.” If you think it’s about a person’s family dragging him to the car and driving him to a rehab center against his will, that’s not it. That’s called kidnapping, and it’s a criminal offense.

Forcing someone to go to rehab has a more legal implication to it. Say a judge has found sufficient evidence that he has a serious mental disorder, then orders him to be confined in a psychiatric ward or enrolled in a rehab facility. That is how a person gets “forced” into drug rehab. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) defines this as “involuntary civil commitment.”

Technically, substance use disorder does not legally count as a “serious mental disorder.” While many people with substance use disorders also have co-occurring mental disorders, this is not covered in the law that says they can be subjected to involuntary civil commitment.

Even then, there are 37 states in the US that allow involuntary civil commitments for those who have serious substance use disorders. These cases are hard to press though, because the evidence required by the courts is often too difficult to gather.

Stringent burdens of proof make sense, though, because involuntary civil commitment is a bit like locking someone up in jail. According to the Partnership to End Addiction, a nonprofit organization, “In order for a person to be involuntarily committed for addiction treatment, it first has to be proven the person is addicted to drugs or alcohol. Typically, there must also be evidence that the individual has threatened, attempted, or inflicted physical harm on himself or another person, or proof that if the person is not detained, he will inflict physical harm on himself or another person. Or the person must be so incapacitated by drugs or alcohol that he cannot provide for his basic needs, including food, shelter, and clothing, and there is no suitable adult (such as a family member or friend) willing to provide for such needs.”

Let’s say this burden of proof is met, and loved ones have the money to press a case. The question now is will the courts force a person into drug rehab?

The answer is most likely no. Many rehab centres are already overcrowded, and forcing people into rehab is not going to help the situation. Also, the cost of rehab is staggering, and if the government foots the bill, that adds extra burden to taxpayers.

Besides, forcing rehab onto individuals who don’t want to be treated is counterproductive. It deprives people who want to get clean the opportunities they need to get treatment.

What other things can be done to persuade an individual into drug rehab?

Drug RehabForcing an individual into drug rehab is not a good idea. It should not be considered a first step when he refuses treatment. There are other methods that may convince him to get help.

Brief interventions, for instance, have been effective in nudging those with substance use disorder to seek treatment. In an intervention, the addicted person’s family and close loved ones meet up and talk to the person about his substance abuse problems. Often, a counselor leads the way and acts as a mediator, making sure the conversation remains calm and supportive. This is important as family members usually do not know how to properly handle an intervention on their own. Part of the counselor’s job is also to brief the family before the intervention begins. They will plan the conversation ahead of time — what questions to ask, what to say next if the addicted person answers in a certain way, and what words to avoid. They may also decide on an “ultimatum” to press the addicted loved one into making a decision right after the intervention ends.

Other times, “tough love” methods can work as well. This means removing the safety nets that family members often place for their addicted loved one, like bailing him out of jail, paying for his bills, or giving him money to buy drugs. It can even be as drastic as forcing the person to move out of the house. Some may see this as coercion, and it may not work for everyone.

These methods are not the same as involuntary civil commitment. It is not legally forcing the person into drug rehab. Rather, it’s persuading him to get help. Again, however, these methods may not work for every addicted individual, and it may not fully convince him to seek treatment on his own.

What is the most effective way to convince someone to get treatment?

Drug RehabThe best way for a person to get into treatment is if he chooses to do so on his own. There is a quote that goes, “Someone convinced against his will is of the same opinion still.” Also, there is a principle in psychology known as intrinsic motivation. This is when the person with substance use disorder decides for himself that he needs to get treatment, not because of people on the outside pressuring him into drug rehab.

Once that person has made the conscious decision to get treated, the process becomes a lot easier. Loved ones can still support him by driving him to the doctor, to the rehab center, and possibly getting involved through family therapy.

Once the addicted individual has a solid support system in place at home, his recovery will have much better outcomes.