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How to Involuntarily Commit Someone to Drug Rehab

Watching someone you love become a shell of themselves because of addiction is one of the worst things anyone can experience. In some cases, they will be able to recognize their problem and seek help voluntarily. Unfortunately, a majority of drug addicts do not seek treatment. As a matter of fact, the National Institute on…
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Watching someone you love become a shell of themselves because of addiction is one of the worst things anyone can experience. In some cases, they will be able to recognize their problem and seek help voluntarily. Unfortunately, a majority of drug addicts do not seek treatment.

As a matter of fact, the National Institute on Drug Abuse estimated that only 11% of people who are struggling with drug addiction seek treatment for it. But you should know that there is another option: involuntary commitment. Let’s take a look at some of the steps you should take to involuntarily commit someone to drug rehab.

Try Everything You Can First

You first have to make sure that this is the last resort. Try to speak with the person and see if they would be willing to voluntarily commit themselves. Hold an intervention if they still have a large support group. This alone could be enough to convince them, but you have to know how to hold one.

The most important part is making sure that you pick the right people. Don’t pick people simply because they are related to them. Choose people who truly love and respect them and vice versa. You want to pick people who they respect the opinion of and have been there to help before.

Make sure that you rehearse it too, and that you keep the tone and atmosphere warm and open the whole time. Let your love and concern for the person be the first thing that shines through, not judgment or condescension.

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Understanding Involuntary Commitment Laws

If you think the only option is involuntary commitment, know that you will need more than to simply be concerned about the person. This is understandable, as you could literally have anyone admitted into rehab.

If the person is minor and you’re their legal guardian, it will be much easier to have treatment ordered. However, if the person is an adult, you will have to show a few things to a judge before they can grant this order.

The first one is demonstrating that the person has a substance abuse problem. The other one is to show that the person has either hurt themselves or others or could possibly if their substance abuse problem goes untreated. Not only that, but the type of substance they’re abusing will also make a difference. Some states will allow for involuntary commitment for things like alcohol while others will limit it to illicit drugs only, so this is something you’ll need to be aware of.

In some cases, you may also have to prove that the person is so addicted to substances that they can’t handle their basic needs on their own. This is something that will be very difficult to prove in a court of law. Also know that the person will have a right to be represented and might push back, so don’t expect to win simply because you know you are right.

States that Allow Involuntary Commitment

In total, 37 states (including the state of Columbia) have involuntary commitment laws on their books. These states are:

  • Alaska
  • Arkansas
  • California
  • Colorado
  • Connecticut
  • Delaware
  • District of Columbia
  • Florida
  • Georgia
  • Hawaii
  • Indiana
  • Iowa
  • Kansas
  • Kentucky
  • Louisiana
  • Maine
  • Massachusetts
  • Michigan
  • Minnesota
  • Mississippi
  • Missouri
  • Nebraska
  • North Carolina
  • North Dakota
  • Ohio
  • Oklahoma
  • Pennsylvania
  • South Carolina
  • South Dakota
  • Tennessee
  • Texas
  • Virginia
  • Washington
  • West Virginia
  • Wisconsin

Out of these states, only Rhode Island and Montana limit involuntary commitment to alcohol, while Vermont limits it to drug abuse only. New Jersey residents should also know that their congress is currently working on legislation that will allow it, but it hasn’t passed through yet.

Can Rehab Work if it’s Involuntary?

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This is hard to tell since we don’t have enough data on success rates in these cases. We do know, however, that a large portion of people who go to rehab are admitted for reasons other than seeking recovery. One 2016 SAMHSA report found that about a third of all people who were admitted to rehab from 2004 to 2014 went through compulsory court orders, but they still seem to do just as good as those who were admitted voluntarily. A research-based guide from the NIDA found that those who were forced to attend rehab tended to stay longer and did as well, if not better, than those who went voluntarily in many cases.

This is everything you need to know before you decide to go through the involuntary commitment process. The first step is making sure that all options have been exhausted, and you’ll need to be sure that you can build a solid case.

Dr Kate Smith

Clinical Reviewer

More about Dr. Kate Smith

Dr. Kate Smith is a licensed professional and has worked in the mental health and substance abuse disorder fields for over 10 years. She earned her bachelor’s degree in Social Work from Florida Atlantic University, graduating magna cum laude from her class. She obtained her Masters in Social Work (MSW) at Barry University in an accelerated program.

More about Dr. Kate Smith

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