Can you Force an Addict Into Rehab?

Addiction is a disease of both mind and body. It makes people do things they never thought they would: neglect their loved ones, lose their jobs, drop out of school, lie, cheat, and even steal or hurt others to get their drug. Addicts destroy lives and often die because of their addiction.

Because the consequences of addiction are so dire, the loved ones of addicts should do everything possible to help them conquer the disease. If you have ever faced this situation, you know how difficult it can be to help someone recognize his problem and then convince him to get professional help. Conventional wisdom says that you cannot help people until they realize and accept their problems, but is this really true? Can you force someone to get help? And if you can, should you?

A study by the American Psychiatric Assn. found that less than 10% of patients with substance use disorders seek treatment, and most of these individuals do so because of external, coercive influences.

The Law

In some states, family members can legally force addicts into rehab. Many more states are pushing for such laws. But it is not as easy as simply dropping someone off at a facility.

Florida’s Marchman Act  is one of the more progressive laws regarding drug and alcohol rehab. It requires that either a spouse, relative, or, in the absence of family members, three people who have direct contact and understanding of the addict’s condition be present to petition for the addict’s care. These petitioners must be able to prove that the addict has lost control and that he is likely to harm himself or someone else.

Does Forced Rehab Work?

The simple act of beginning the process of court-ordered rehabilitation leads many addicts to admit that they have a problem and to get professional help. While it is often assumed that a person must admit to having a problem for treatment to be effective, studies have found that the difference in success rates between voluntary and involuntary treatment is negligible.

But in spite of the fact that most medical professionals now recognize addiction as a disease, it is often not treated as such. While other illnesses are treated via research-based evidence, addiction is still largely treated punitively. Addicts are often given “tough love” and are punished when they fail. They may follow a 12-step program or get counseling from caregivers with minimal addiction training.

Medicines that can help addicts by easing withdrawal symptoms or by reducing the risk of relapse are shunned by those treatment facilities that stand by the old-fashioned view that addicts in care should have absolutely no access to medication, not even over-the-counter drugs.

If you have a loved one who refuses to get help, consider petitioning the courts for forced placement in a rehab facility. If you do, be sure to seek out one that is using modern practices and then give him all the love and support that you can.


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