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Can You Put Someone in Rehab Against Their Will? Involuntary Commitment for Drug Abuse

Last Updated: June 9, 2022

Authored by Isaak Stotts, LP

Reviewed by Michael Espelin APRN

Loving someone who has an addiction problem is incredibly difficult. Persons who struggle with either alcohol or drug addiction tend to lose their ability to love and care about other people in their lives. Their whole focus becomes the addiction and finding ways to get high or get drunk. In addition, trying to communicate with loved ones who have an addiction problem can be challenging.

This is where involuntary commitment for drug abuse comes into play. This is the commitment of an individual, with a mental health disorder or substance abuse problem, to drug rehab when they are unwilling to commit voluntarily. However, upon evidence of substance abuse disorder, a court might allow an individual to be committed involuntarily if there is a danger of potential harm to himself or others.

So, can you force someone into rehab against their will? Read along further to learn about involuntary rehabilitation laws, how to get someone committed to rehab against their will, and the treatment modalities offered.

Can You Force Someone Into Rehab?

Court-ordered rehab may seem forced, like making a person do something against their will; however, forced rehab has saved many lives and stands as one of the best help for addiction. Can you force someone into rehab? Definitely, if that’s the only way to get them to seek help. One can use the support of the law to make someone go to rehab to help them. Addiction may alter a person’s whole life and cause them to act dangerously or pose a threat to themselves and others; in this case, an involuntary commitment for drug abuse would be helpful.

At least 37 states in the United States allow involuntary rehab. However, the reason and eligibility for involuntary rehab may differ from one state to another. There is a common myth about addiction that “In order to get better, addicts have to want it.” This actually isn’t true because scientific studies show that success rates for those who were forced to go to rehab are remarkably similar to success rates for those who went to rehab voluntarily.

Some of the Reasons to Make Someone Go to Rehab Are:

  • Compulsive use of the substance
  • Lack of control over one’s need for the drug
  • Increased use even under negative conditions
  • Excess Cravings at any time of the day
  • Chronic impaired mental health and behavioral patterns
  • They are too young to make decisions for themselves
  • Recurring misdemeanors and clashes with the law
  • The person is deemed dangerous to themselves and others

These reasons make a person eligible for involuntary commitment for drug abuse. While one should always hope for the best, some addiction cases can be overwhelming for family and friends; hence the question, can you force someone into rehab, becomes recurring. When trying to get someone into rehab, one should be prepared emotionally for the possibility that an addicted person will not be able to. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, only 11%, that’s 2.6 million out of 23.9 million people with substance abuse addictions get the help they need.

And even if the loved one does agree to enter rehab, it’s not a given that the treatment program will “take” and be successful the first time. An estimated 40% to 60% of people getting addiction treatment or recovery have one or more drug or alcohol relapses. So, even if such an “intervention conversation” fails and the person refuses treatment, one may have “planted a seed” that bears fruit later.

Involuntary rehab helps family and friends get loved ones into a recovery center, especially when the individual refuses every form of help.

An involuntary commitment for drug abuse is feasible when the person has previously inflicted some form of harm on others or themselves.

The death toll due to drug overdose tripled in the US from 1999 to 2014. The introduction of involuntary rehab programs is a major way to curb addiction in society.

judge reading about involuntary commitment laws.

Laws For Involuntary Treatment for Drug Abuse

For the last 15 years, the rate of drug overdoses and corresponding fatalities has nearly tripled in the US. Whether it is alcohol, substance abuse, or both, its overdose has created problems for many individuals, their families, and loved ones. Individuals abusing various substances and alcohol have an impaired state of mind that does not allow them to go through stages of change addictions on their own and make sane choices and decisions. Those who have been asking, “can you force someone into rehab?” finally have an answer by way of legal acts.

Bakers Act

There are ways to commit someone to rehab, and the most prominent of such laws is the Bakers Act, also known as the Florida Mental Health Act of 1971. Under the Bakers Act law, judges, law enforcement personnel, physicians, or mental health professionals can initiate the involuntary treatment of an individual upon presentation of reliable evidence. Those wondering how to get someone into rehab can leverage this law to commit someone to rehab, especially users suffering from mental illness and may be unable to make such critical decisions on their own. People eligible under the act are those individuals who have lost control of their own will and are at risk of harming themselves and others.

Bakers Act Can Make Someone Go to Rehab If:

  • The individual is likely to be neglected
  • May pose a danger to others or even themselves
  • Refuses or is unable to take care of his or herself in this period
  • Has a mental illness and is unable to determine

The Marchman Act

The Hal S. Marchman Alcohol and Drug Service Act of 1993 is a law that is used to commit someone to rehab, especially in extreme cases where the user is yet to enroll in any recovery program and suffers deteriorating mental health.

This Act Is a Petition That Can Be Filed by the Family of the Drug User for Forced Rehab Because of These Reasons:

  • The user has no control over themselves and is impaired physically and mentally
  • The individual may be a threat to themselves or others

Typically, the hearing takes 5 days, and a public defender takes up the patient’s case. If the patient is found eligible for forced rehab, the court may order a 60 day or less.

Missouri Civil Involuntary Detention

The Missouri Civil involuntary Detention law gives authority to request forced rehab for an individual under certain extreme conditions. However, who can commit someone to rehab? Any adult, law enforcement personnel, or an Access Crisis Intervention (ACI) staff may apply to make someone go to rehab, especially under critical mental health problems.

Casey’s Law

Popularly known as the Mattew Casey Wethington Act for Substance Abuse Intervention, the law provides a credible means to intervene on behalf of a drug or alcohol addict who is impaired and unable to seek help for substance use on their own. The application can be made by family, relative, spouse, friend, or any other party. If the individual qualifies for forced rehab, they may be committed to 60 to 360 days, depending on the nature of the petition.

Involuntary Commitment Law Trial.

Which States Have Involuntary Commitment Laws For Addiction Treatment?

A total of 37 states (and the District of Columbia) of the United States have involuntary rehab laws that allow committing someone to a mental hospital in the case of substance abuse disorders or mental health disorders.

However, according to this study about civil commitment in the United States, in most cases, these laws are rarely used by families, physicians, or judges because of less awareness, less precedence, and other factors. The other states that do not have such involuntary rehab laws primarily consider them a violation of the privacy and freedom of individuals with substance use disorders. They also believe that treatment cannot be as effective when it is forced and that every individual should have the right to voluntarily select rehab or otherwise.

What States Allow Involuntary Commitment for Addiction Treatment

List of States that Allow Forced Rehab

The states in the US which have laws through which substance abuse patients can be involuntarily committed are listed below:

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

5 out of these 38 states include substance abuse and alcoholism as a mental health disorder. In contrast, the other 33 states have different provisions for patients of substance abuse, alcoholism, and mental health disorders.

Differences in Involuntary Commitment Laws In Some States

Specifics of involuntary rehab laws by state are listed below:

North Carolina

North Carolina Involuntary treatment Laws allow individuals with mental health disorders to be committed to rehab against their will. According to the Baker Act NC, the involuntary care NC procedure involves the assessment of each individual’s case to decide if they meet the criteria for involuntary rehab services.

How to Have Someone Committed in NC Requires Meeting Certain Criteria, Which Are Described Below:

  • For inpatient treatment, there must be evidence that a patient is in danger of harming himself or others due to the altered state of mind and must satisfy the need for nourishment, medical care, shelter, and safety.
  • For outpatient treatment, a patient must be capable of living in the community safely under the supervision and cannot make decisions about voluntary treatment options.

How long involuntary care lasts in NC depends on the court ruling where the judge decides the time for which a person may be committed in the process.

Ohio

The Baker Act Ohio establishes some criteria which allow involuntary treatment of substance abusers and mental health patients to rehabilitation services. The 72-hour psychiatric hold in Ohio is also part of these involuntary laws, which allows a person with a mental health illness to be involuntarily admitted to a mental hospital or institution for 72 hours, after which they may be committed for long-term rehabilitation.

The Criteria for Involuntary Care in Ohio for Patients of Substance Abuse Is the Same for Inpatient and Outpatient Treatment Which Is as Follows:

  • The patient must be proven to be a danger to oneself or others.
  • The patient must show the inability to provide basic physical needs and medical care.
  • The patient must require rehab treatment and show the ability to benefit from it.

The involuntary psychiatric hold Ohio has similar criteria for commitment recovery.

California

Can one force someone into rehab in California? Yes, the California Involuntary treatment laws allow patients with severe mental illnesses and substance abuse disorders to be forced into substance rehab against their will. Involuntary care in California works similarly to court-ordered treatment.

A Judge Might Order Commitment if the Individual Matches the Following Criteria:

  • That an individual is dangerous to himself or others
  • Their condition is deteriorating, and an individual cannot commit himself voluntarily.
  • That a patient is incapable of providing for basic needs and medical care and that one will benefit from treatment.
  • That there was an act of violence or harm in the 48 hours before the petition was filed.
  • And lastly, that there were at least two hospitalizations on account of non-compliance in the last one and a half years.

Pennsylvania

How can a contact commit someone in PA is based on the involuntary rehab laws of the state? These laws also include the 302 commitment PA law, according to which a person with a severe mental disturbance may be admitted to a health facility or hospital against his will. The 302 laws in PA allow for such a commitment to be carried out for a maximum of 120 hours.

The Criteria for Involuntary Care in Pennsylvania Are Listed Below:

  • That the person is incapable of taking care of personal needs and nourishment and thus be considered a source of danger to himself or others.
  • The petition can establish a high probability that serious injury or death may occur if the patient is not treated within 30 days.

Texas

Involuntary rehab in Texas includes laws through which mentally ill individuals and patients of substance abuse may be committed involuntarily if certain criteria are met. This includes the Bakers Act Texas as well.

Committing Someone to a Mental Institution in Texas Involves Court-Ordered Treatment in Light of the Criteria Which Are Described Below:

  • Reasonable belief that the person is in danger of self-harm or harming others.
  • Inability to make informed decisions about treatment, self-care, nourishment, etc.
  • Shows signs of abnormal mental, emotional, or physical distress.
  • And that the patient’s condition is continually deteriorating and needs immediate treatment.

Texas involuntary treatment is usually for a maximum of 90 days, including inpatient and outpatient treatment. The commitment laws also include the involuntary psychiatric hold in Texas, where a patient may be held against his will for a maximum of 72 hours if immediate intervention is necessary.

Australian IDAT Experience

Involuntary treatment laws exist not only in the United States. For example, the Involuntary Drug and Alcohol Treatment Program (IDAT) in Australia provides a structured framework to commit someone to a mental hospital or a rehabilitation facility by providing them with short-term care for withdrawal and treatment. The program also offers supportive interventions to individuals who cannot make informed decisions about themselves due to substance abuse and thus require involuntary care.

The IDAT program is based on the Drug and Alcohol Treatment Act 2007 (DAT Act), which: "provides for the health and safety of persons with severe substance dependence through involuntary detention, care, treatment, and stabilization."

How To Commit Someone to Rehab?

The involuntary treatment for drug abuse is mainly based on the civil commitment laws by the state. Here’s how to get someone into rehab: Each state has certain criteria which a patient must meet to commit them to rehab. Substantial evidence must be provided along with the petition.

What Evidence Of Potential Harm Is Necessary To Involuntarily Commit The Addict?

Each state has varying laws or requirements on what they consider substantial evidence of potential harm when committing someone against their will. However, one of the most common pieces of evidence is an assessment by a physician, psychiatrist, psychologist, physician assistants, or addiction counselors that the individual needs a substance abuse treatment program and is not in a position to decide on voluntary treatment.

What Is The Commitment Procedure?

What are the steps on how to get someone into rehab? Based on the criteria for involuntary care for substance abuse, the procedure should be done in the following way:

  • Health workers and families of the patient consult with a medical practitioner to conduct a comprehensive assessment of the patient.
  • The medical practitioner then refers the patient to an accredited medical practitioner to further conduct the assessment, after which a petition may be filed.
  • The court will then order involuntary rehab for the individual based on the assessment. The duration for which the patient is to be committed will also be ordered based on each individual case and requirements for recovery.

What Treatment is Provided To Involuntarily Committed Patients?

Based on the National Institute on Drug Abuse guidelines, the treatment plan for involuntarily committed patients is tailored and customized for each individual. Since the patients have not voluntarily committed to treatment for recovery, special care is taken to ensure that they are motivated by the process and continue with their treatment. Comprehensive treatment plans are devised, including several medications for drug addiction, rehab therapies, and treatment modalities to address various issues of substance abuse, mental health disorders, or both.

According to this study about the impediments to the success of involuntary treatment, coercive treatment has many challenges which need to be addressed to ensure successful treatment.

Involuntary Commitment For Minors

Can one commit a child to a mental institution? Yes, in all states of the United States, parents or guardians have the authority to involuntarily commit their child, who is less than 18 years old, to an addiction treatment program or a rehabilitation facility. Teenage rehab commitment does not require any court order.

However, once the child turns 18, they will have the power of deciding whether to continue with the involuntary treatment or not. To further commit them to involuntary treatment, parents would require a court order.

Talking with lawyer abbout involuntary rehab in the office.

What Happens After Treatment?

After the period of involuntary care ends, as ordered by the court, the court can either order additional treatment or else the individual is free to leave the rehab facility. However, after a short-term commitment at a rehab facility, patients are at a greater risk of relapse and overdose if aftercare support is not provided to them.

After the release from involuntary treatment, patients should be offered regular support in the form of weekly 12-step meetings and group therapy to prevent relapse. However, once the patient is released from involuntary rehab, the problem does not remain under the jurisdiction of civil commitment laws and is then treated as a case process of addiction treatment and aftercare.

Is The Current Involuntary Addiction Treatment System Adequate?

Currently, the availability of effective and affordable treatment programs in the United States is quite low. They do not have the capacity or resources to handle the great number of voluntary and involuntary care cases each year.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is Evidence of Potential Harm Necessary for an Involuntary Commitment?

In many jurisdictions, yes, although the criteria may vary from one nation to the other. Involuntary commitment for drug abuse is approved following emergency hospitalization in many cases, during which an evaluation is conducted by mental health professionals to determine if forced rehab is appropriate. In order situations, a court appeal with relevant evidence can suffice.

How Long Does Involuntary Addiction Treatment Last?

The recovery services or involuntary treatment lasts at least 28 days from when it is approved. Involuntary treatment is only the first stage; this is followed by community care (Aftercare) which may last for about six months to prevent relapse.

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Page Sources

  1. NIDA. Step by Step Guides to Finding Treatment for Drug Use Disorders. Retrieved from https://archives.drugabuse.gov/publications/step-by-step-guides-to-finding-treatment-drug-use-disorders
  2. NIDA. 2020, July 10. Treatment and Recovery. Retrieved from https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugs-brains-behavior-science-addiction/treatment-recovery
  3. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Key Substance Use and Mental Health Indicators in the United States: Results from the 2018 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, https://www.samhsa.gov/data/sites/default/files/cbhsq-reports/NSDUHNationalFindingsReport2018/NSDUHNationalFindingsReport2018.pdf
  4. Open Society Foundation, DEFINING THE ADDICTION TREATMENT GAP, https://www.opensocietyfoundations.org/uploads/54f33676-58ac-490f-8d84-9923403ccf46/data-summary-20101123.pdf
  5. Missouri Department of Mental Health, Civil Involuntary Detention, https://dmh.mo.gov/behavioral-health/help/civil
  6. Kentucky Office of Drug Control Policy, Casey's Law, https://odcp.ky.gov/Resources/Pages/Caseys-Law.aspx

Published on: May 17th, 2018

Updated on: June 9th, 2022

About Author

Isaak Stotts, LP

Isaak Stotts is an in-house medical writer in AddictionResource. Isaak learned addiction psychology at Aspen University and got a Master's Degree in Arts in Psychology and Addiction Counseling. After graduation, he became a substance abuse counselor, providing individual, group, and family counseling for those who strive to achieve and maintain sobriety and recovery goals.

Medically Reviewed by

Michael Espelin APRN

8 years of nursing experience in wide variety of behavioral and addition settings that include adult inpatient and outpatient mental health services with substance use disorders, and geriatric long-term care and hospice care.  He has a particular interest in psychopharmacology, nutritional psychiatry, and alternative treatment options involving particular vitamins, dietary supplements, and administering auricular acupuncture.