Is there anything more devastating than not being able to help a loved one? Behind every American suffering through the hurt of substance abuse stand numerous family members and friends suffering along with them, mining the depths of their hearts and minds for a way to lend a hand. What states can you force someone into rehab?
Unfortunately, addiction sinks its claws deep, and even though we may know the person bearing this burden better than anyone, we’re often not equipped to pull them from its clutches. Eventually, the feelings of helplessness that come with watching someone take this self-destructive path can make forced rehab seem like an appealing prospect. But is committing someone to rehab without their express consent a good idea? Is it moral? Let’s explore more on this topic.
AspenRidge is a leading alcohol and drug addiction recovery center in Colorado. We offer family programs that provide support during a critical period. If you’re exploring options on finding resources for your loved one, give us a call directly at 855-281-5588.
What Is Involuntary Commitment?
Involuntary commitment laws give courts permission to order the mandatory drug treatment of an individual in the throes of addiction. The finer points of these laws differ from state to state, but the general process involves “unlocked internment” in a treatment center for anywhere between 48 hours and 15 days, followed by a hearing. Should an individual be deemed a danger to themselves or those around them, they may be committed to a rehab facility for a minimum of two weeks.
According to Heather Gray, NAMSDL Senior Legislative Attorney, 37 states and the District of Columbia currently have statutes in place allowing for the involuntary commitment of individuals suffering from substance use disorder, alcoholism, or both.
In some states, the family of the person in question, medical professionals, and law enforcement officers can approach rehab facilities directly, circumventing the need for a court order.
When Families Are Out Of Options
After exhausting all other possibilities, involuntary commitment laws can be reassuring to the friends and family of someone dealing with addiction. On the surface, it seems like a step in the right direction. What states can force someone into rehab, and is it morally justified?
The National Institute on Drug Abuse states that roughly 24 million Americans desperately need treatment for addiction, yet only 2.6 million find recovery programs. Forced rehab has become an important tool to balance out these gut-wrenching statistics, but many experts worry that it might be doing more damage than good.
A 2016 meta-analysis of the effectiveness of compulsory drug treatment published in the International Journal of Drug Policy concluded that “Evidence does not, on the whole, suggest improved outcomes related to compulsory treatment approaches, with some studies suggesting potential harms.”
What States Can Force Someone Into Rehab Using Involuntary Commitment Laws?
The list of states with laws permitting forced rehab is steadily growing, a response to the worsening drug and alcohol crises sweeping the nation.
According to the National Alliance for Model State Drug Laws (NAMSDL), involuntary commitment for treating substance abuse or alcohol dependency is legal in 37 states, including AspenRidge, offering support in Colorado.
A complete list of states with involuntary commitment laws pertaining to addiction include:
- North Dakota
- South Dakota
- West Virginia
- North Carolina
- South Carolina
- Rhode Island (Alcoholism Only)
- Vermont (Substance Abuse Only)
- Montana (Substance Abuse Only)
It’s important to note that these laws are state-specific. That is, many criteria and qualifying standards vary from state to state. Every state’s statute requires that persons subject to commitment have a mental illness. Most require treatment as well (if only in their definition of mental illness), according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).
How Is Forced Rehab Initiated?
Even if loved ones believe that forced rehab is the best or perhaps the only way to help someone with alcohol and drug dependency, it’s not always an easy process to initiate.
As it verges on a breach of civil rights, a high burden of proof is required to convince a judge that involuntary commitment is necessary.
In Colorado, an “Application for Emergency Commitment” must be completed by someone who has witnessed the behavior of the individual firsthand, is over the age of 18, and is approved by the detoxification program administrator.
These forms must demonstrate that, due to their struggles with addiction, a person is a danger to themselves or others. Someone suffering from addiction issues cannot be forced into rehab simply because they’re refusing treatment.
Is Forced Rehab a Good Idea (Does it Work?)
There are a few objective short-term benefits to forced rehab: besides medically assisted treatment, someone struggling with addiction will not have access to substances that are destroying their life. As such, they’re less likely to harm themselves or others around them.
However, according to a 2018 study carried out by Claudia Rafful of UCSD, involuntary commitment leads to an increased risk of non-fatal overdoses.
Furthermore, a 2016 study carried out by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health asserts that people forced to receive treatment for opioid addiction are over 50% more likely to experience a fatal overdose than those who willingly enter drug rehabilitation programs. This is, in part, due to the loss of tolerance a person will encounter while in forced rehab.
The truth of the matter is, realizing the need for and wanting to receive help is an important step for the person suffering through the pains of addiction, a step that’s considered essential to the recovery process. During forced rehab, internees are far less likely to accept the treatment program, increasing the chances of relapse upon release, perpetuating the tragic cycle of addiction.
It’s also important to contemplate the effect forced rehab will have on you as a family member or friend of a loved one in need. As per the “Considerations Before Pursuing an Involuntary Commitment” document provided by the Colorado Department of Human Services, family members or interested parties have “very little control once it (Application for Emergency Commitment) has been filed.”
This means that you’ll have almost no say as to where your loved one is taken and what sort of treatment they’ll receive, which can leave involved parties feeling disconnected and alone, putting pressure on already crumbling relationships.
As involving family and friends wherever possible in treatment programs has proven beneficial, the disconnect that forced rehab can create between someone with an addiction and their familial and social network is problematic, but there is hope!
Alternatives to Forced Rehab — AspenRidge Family Program
Controlled interventions have proven to be a much more effective means of helping someone with drug or alcohol dependency confront their issues. They provide you the opportunity to connect with your loved one in need and broach the subject of addiction delicately as a unit.
Additionally, an intervention creates a discourse between you and your loved one, rather than a coerced, one-way line of communication — it breeds understanding between both family members and afflicted individuals.
At Aspen Ridge, we strive to facilitate and nourish that fundamental understanding with our family rehab program. Throughout this carefully crafted treatment process, we invite you to participate in individual and multi-family sessions focused on key areas such as communication, family roles, boundaries, and forgiveness, with the ultimate goal of healing your family unit. Contact us today for more information at 855-281-5588.