Can You Force Someone Into Rehab?

Getting Treatment for a Loved One in Denial

If you have ever known someone who is struggling with addiction, this can be an incredibly difficult and emotional thing to have to go through. In many cases, it may feel like it is your responsibility to get your loved one the help they need.

While it may be enough to discuss with the person the devastating effects their alcohol or drug addiction is causing to get them to seek out treatment, this may not always be the case. In times when an addicted person refuses to get help, you may wonder if it’s possible: can you force someone into rehab?

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If you have a friend or family member who is struggling with a drug or alcohol addiction but will not get the treatment they need, keep reading to learn more about involuntary addiction treatment and what your options are for treating your loved one.

Can You Force Someone to go to Rehab?

substance abuse treatment

There are several options available to help your addicted loved one enter rehab and get the help they need. Of course, which of these will be applicable to you will depend on your specific situation.

For example, many states have laws that allow parents with children who are under 18 years old to force them to receive adolescent substance abuse treatment. This means that, even without the child’s consent, they can be required to attend addiction treatment.

Of course, this changes once the child legally becomes an adult, their family members can no longer make the decision to get treatment for them. With that being said, there are certain involuntary commitment laws that extend to those who are over the age of 18.

Court Mandated Substance Abuse Treatment

One of the main ways someone can be forced into drug rehab is through the use of drug courts. These divert nonviolent offenders with a substance use disorder from being sent to prison and instead place them in supervised drug and alcohol rehab programs.

The goal of these programs focuses not on punishing nonviolent offenders, but rather to provide positive reinforcement for getting help. Of course, the individual being placed into treatment will need to have been arrested, pleaded guilty, and be in agreement with going to rehab.

There are also several involuntary commitment laws for people struggling with behavioral health conditions. These are currently active in 37 states and allow those who are struggling with drug and alcohol addiction to be involuntarily committed. However, certain criteria must be met in order for these to be enacted.

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What Does the Involuntary Commitment Process Look Like for Substance Abuse Treatment?

There is a specific process that goes into placing a loved one into involuntary rehab. While these steps will vary based on what state you are located in, your loved one will need to meet certain criteria before you are able to involuntarily commit them:

  • They pose a threat either to themselves or others, such as if they have inflicted physical harm against themself or another person.
  • They have a disability that has made them physically or mentally incapable of taking care of themselves due to their addiction.
  • Their drug or alcohol abuse has left them incapacitated and incapable of making their own decisions.
  • They are neglecting or unable to take care of their basic needs and responsibilities due to their substance use disorder.
  • They have had a complete loss of control in their life due to their drug or alcohol abuse.


Based on what state you or your loved one is located in, who will be able to petition their case to the court will vary, whether this be a family member, friend, or medical provider. Furthermore, the person who is being forced into treatment will need written verification from a medical professional that they are in need of addiction treatment services.

What States Have Involuntary Commitment Laws for Addiction Treatment?

There are currently 38 states that allow individuals to be forced into rehab through the use of involuntary commitment laws, including:

What Laws Address Involuntary Rehab?

What Laws Address Involuntary Rehab

There are several state laws that are in place for involuntary rehab for drugs and alcohol. These will vary on a state-by-state basis, but some examples include:

  • The Florida Marchman Act
  • Casey’s Law in Kentucky
  • Ricky’s Law in Washington
  • Colorado Substance Use Emergency Commitment Law

Marchman Act

In 1993, Florida passed the Hal S. Marchman Alcohol and Other Drug Services Act in order to ensure that those who are in need of emergency evaluation and treatment for their substance use disorders are provided with temporary detention.

Casey’s Law

Casey’s Law was petitioned by the parents of Matthew Casey Wethington’s parents in Kentucky after their son, Matthew, died in 2002 from a heroin-related drug overdose. The law was put into effect in 2004, and grants parents, family members or friends to hold on intervention and petition the court for their addicted loved one to be forced into treatment.

Ricky’s Law

The Involuntary Treatment Act was passed in 2018 in Washington state, and grants the ability to involuntarily detain both children and adults who are considered to be a danger to themselves or others and their property, or whose drug or alcohol abuse has caused them to suffer a disability.

Substance Use Emergency Commitment Law

Under this law in Colorado, an addicted person can be committed to an addiction treatment facility by a judge-imposed civil commitment order. This is a type of last resort used for people who will not get voluntary treatment, but are considered a risk to themselves or others, and are medically/psychiatrically stable enough to be put into rehab.

What is the Typical Length of Rehab in These Cases?

How long a person will spend in treatment will depend not only on the jurisdiction of their state but how severe their addiction is. Depending on these factors, treatment may last anywhere between three days to a year.

While the length of treatment will vary based on where you or your loved one is located, most states will allow individuals to be recommitted or have their treatment period extended if it is found necessary by the court.

Does Using Involuntary Commitment Work for Treating a Substance Use Disorder?

Treating a Substance Use Disorder

Most states vary in the rates of effectiveness of involuntary rehab commitment for helping individuals recover from their substance abuse and maintain sobriety.  For starters, most people struggling with addiction also have an underlying mental illness that is causing or contributing to their substance use habits.

In most cases, forcing someone into rehab may not provide them with the necessary support to overcome these emotional difficulties. This, unfortunately, may make it more difficult for these individuals to maintain their sobriety upon leaving treatment.

Furthermore, it may be the case that a person who is forced into rehab may not have the ability or desire to maintain sobriety upon leaving treatment. However, studies conducted by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) found that treatment does not necessarily need to be voluntary in order to be effective.

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Other Methods For Getting Your Loved One to Enter Rehab

Many families are impacted by addiction in some way every single day. This is why it is important to know all of your options for helping your loved one get the help they need, whether this is through voluntary or involuntary commitment.

The best way to ensure the physical and mental well-being of an addicted individual is to try and get them to want to seek treatment on their own. This can be accomplished through holding an intervention and making sure they know that they are loved and supported in this difficult process.

Helping them to understand their treatment options and researching what level of care will best fit their needs can make entering a treatment program much easier. For example, helping them understand the difference between inpatient treatment and outpatient treatment can make them more willing to participate in one of these programs.

Involuntary Commitment to Dual Diagnosis Treatment

Dual Diagnosis Treatment

Someone who has a more severe addiction or a co-occurring mental health disorder may benefit from more intensive treatment options, where they can receive constant supervision and support from licensed medical professionals.

For someone who may not have the financial means for higher levels of care or whose addictions aren’t as extreme, outpatient rehab may be their best option. Ultimately, of course, the level of care that will be best for your loved one will depend on their specific situation.

Seeking out professional medical advice or speaking with an addiction specialist about treatment-related topics can help to decide which treatment options will be best for your loved one easier.  can help determine the best treatment plan for your loved one.

FAQs on Can You Force Someone Into Rehab?

Can you force someone into rehab for drugs and alcohol?

In short, yes, in most states there are laws where someone who is a danger to themselves or others may be involuntarily committed to treatment. It will depend on the person and their level of functioning as to whether alcohol and drug rehab can be court-ordered, as well as on the laws of the state where they live.

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Find Addiction Treatment Programs for Your Loved One Today!

If you have a loved one who is struggling with addiction, this can be difficult and painful for everyone involved. But know that you are not alone, and help IS available. At Find Addiction Rehabs, we understand how hard it can be to force someone to go to rehab and get the help they need.

Our hotline is available 24/7 to answer all of your or your loved one’s recovery questions and understand what treatment services are best suited to their needs.

So don’t wait; call now, and we will help you and your loved one find an addiction treatment center that can provide all of their care needs and get them started on the path to recovery, today!

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