Watching someone you love struggle with addiction is one of the most devastating experiences one can go through. The person you once knew can become a stranger. You know, if they could just get help, everything could be so much better. But their addiction has clouded their judgment. They refuse to admit they have a problem or accept any offer of treatment, making you wonder if you can force someone into rehab.
Although issuing ultimatums can convince someone to seek treatment, likely, such action won’t be as helpful as you hope. Until someone is truly open to the idea of getting sober, treatment will not be as effective as it could be. Rather than think of ways you can force your loved one into rehab, it is better to explore ways you can gently encourage them to see the benefits of treatment instead. Recovery is always a choice, and it can be as powerful and life-changing when someone makes that decision for themselves.
Is Involuntarily Treatment Still an Option?
There are currently 37 states that offer some involuntary addiction treatment. Under certain guidelines, people can be taken into rehab without their consent. Parents of minors under 18 can effectively force someone into rehab by driving their children to a treatment facility and requiring them to be admitted. But after someone is of legal age, there are far fewer options.
People who are involuntarily committed cannot be held against their will indefinitely, and they have a right to a lawyer. They are entitled to a writ of habeas corpus, which determines whether or not they’ve been detained fairly. The court may determine that, although they qualify for a substance use disorder, they are not a danger to society and therefore cannot be held against their will for treatment.
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A person might be released from involuntary inpatient rehab and referred to an outpatient program in some states. If they do not comply, then they will be taken back to inpatient treatment. However, just because you can physically put someone in rehab does not mean it will work. They must mentally and emotionally be invested in getting better. Otherwise, they are just biding time until they can get out and start using again.
There are some circumstances in which involuntary addiction treatment is successful. What matters in the long run, however, is a desire to lead a drug-free lifestyle. People who are not ready to commit to that are more likely to relapse after treatment ends.
Talk to the Person, Not the Addict
You may think, “I’ve tried everything. Screaming and yelling. Crying and begging. Nothing works!” And that may be true. Your loved one might not be ready to get help. But you might have also been approaching the topic from a standpoint that invokes feelings of guilt, shame, or embarrassment. Even when people know they need help, they are less likely to admit it if they feel judged and rejected for their substance.
Addiction consumes a person’s entire life, but there is still a person underneath the drug abuse. Staging an intervention with a professional can help you reach this person who feels lost when you don’t know-how. Interventionists are experts in substance abuse, and they understand what it takes to reach someone who has become deaf to their loved ones’ pleas to get help. They can also help family and friends address substance abuse with a person who is denying they have a problem at all.
It would help if you focused on why you are concerned for the person. Addiction is not something to use against them. And it’s about choosing a side. Addiction is a problem that you want to help them face and overcome to pursue a healthy and productive life for themselves.
Don’t Force Someone into Rehab, Offer Help Instead.
Rather than using threats of taking specific actions like forcing someone into rehab, talk to your loved one about what they need from a treatment program. Ask them, “What would make you willing to go to rehab right now?” and listen without judging their response. The first time you ask, they may not want to answer, or their response may seem unreasonable. Don’t give up. Offer them choices, including both inpatient and outpatient programs. Some people are afraid to look up information about rehab on their own. They feel overwhelmed and possibly even disgusted with themselves for needing it, to begin with. Offer to work with them, explore programs, reach out to facilities, and even transport them to and from treatment.
In addition to personally approaching the subject. Seek the help of professionals. Reach out to your local hospital or contact us at Ocean Hills Recovery to ask about how you can get the help to guide your loved one into treatment. Professionals are skilled at addressing substance abuse of all types, including both new and long-term abuse, co-occurring disorders, and drug abuse in minors. And as someone who has been struggling with substance abuse as a concerned friend or family member, you too can benefit from the support a professional team can offer. Just knowing that others are willing to guide you can take some weight off your shoulders and make helping your loved one a little bit easier.
About the author:
Nicole earned her doctoral degree in Psychology with an emphasis on marriage and family therapy at California School of Professional Psychology. Her doctoral thesis was a grounded theory study exploring the role of alienation and connectedness in the life course of addiction. She specializes in treating addiction and trauma. She is certified in DBT and EMDR, two of the most highly regarded evidence-based methods in psychotherapy. Dr. Doss is a strong LGBT advocate and provides open and affirming support to her LGBT clients.
Dr. Doss’s earlier education included graduating cum laude from the University of California, Irvine in June of 2007 with a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology. While there, she received honors recognition by Psi Chi and Golden Key honor societies.
Nicole has been working with alcoholics and addicts in our California drug and alcohol rehab center as an advisor and counselor for many years. She is passionate about providing quality counseling and care to her clients. Her main focus is on integrating the 12 Step and disease models of addiction with experiential therapeutic theory. She is married to Greg; they have two adorable sons together and an energetic yellow Labrador Retriever.