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Can You Force Someone into Rehab?
Category: ,
Author: Phil Kosanovich
Published: June 23, 2022

Seeing a loved one struggling with a substance use disorder can be extremely difficult. Drug and alcohol abuse can have devastating effects both on the life of the person who is addicted and their family members. Your loved one might have diminishing mental and physical health, and may even have trouble with the law.

Getting your loved one to recognize that they need help is not easy. They may be in denial and get defensive or even aggressive when you approach them about it. In 2019, only 20% of people got substance abuse treatment out of the 21.6 million people in the US who needed it.

There are ways that you can encourage your loved one to get help. Forcing them into rehab is legally possible until someone is eighteen, and possible in most states if they are adults, as long as they meet specific criteria. However this is not recommended. A better way to support your loved one might be with an intervention.

Can You Force Someone into Rehab?

Involuntary Commitment

In cases of adolescent substance abuse, it is possible to take them to rehab involuntarily. This becomes more difficult when they are older. Involuntary commitment varies from state to state, but most states allow involuntary commitment of adults if the following requirements are met:

  • Proof that the person is addicted to drugs or alcohol
  • Proof that they have threatened, attempted, or inflicted harm to themselves or others
  • Proof that they have a severe enough addiction that they cannot provide basic needs for themselves e.g., food, shelter, or clothing, and that another adult is not willing to do so

Once you have got someone involuntarily committed, a court order is issued. According to involuntary commitment laws, someone can be detained from forty-eight hours to fifteen days before their hearing. They will usually then have two weeks of involuntary addiction treatment. Afterwards they may be allowed to continue with outpatient treatment. However, if they break any rules of this treatment, they can be forced into inpatient care again.

It is also possible to be forced into rehab through the drug courts. Over 65% of the US prison population has a substance abuse disorder and a further 20% were under the influence of drugs or alcohol at the time of their crime. Drug courts divert nonviolent offenders with a substance use disorder from prison to treatment programs. Here the aim is recovery rather than punishment.

Find help: Drug Rehab Southern California

Emergency Hospitalization

Forcing someone into treatment is also possible if they are experiencing physical or mental health problems as a result of their alcohol addiction or drug abuse. Specialists will assess their condition and they may be taken into custody and evaluated by the police.

Should I Force a Loved One into Rehab?

While it is technically possible to force someone into rehab, this is not recommended. Recovering from a substance use disorder is extremely difficult and is not over when you have finished a rehab treatment. It is a lifelong process to remain alcohol or drug-free, so the chances of long-term recovery are a lot higher when you, the person with the addiction, want to get help for yourself.

Why Does Your Loved One Not Want Help?

It can be hard to understand why your family member does not want your help. Unless you have experienced addiction yourself, you may not understand how powerful the effects can be on your brain and behavior. It is important to understand that addiction is not a lack of willpower, but is a chronic disease with risk factors which make it much easier for some people to become addicted than others.

One of the hardest things is admitting that you need help and there could be many reasons that your loved one is resisting help from you including:

  • Denial of the severity of their condition.
  • Fear of rehab or of withdrawal symptoms.
  • The cost of rehab can be expensive and they might not be able to afford it themselves.
  • Pride can also be a factor and they might think they can recover without help.


Rather than forcing your loved one into rehab, there are more gentle and supportive options. A common way that families try to help is through an intervention. This is where you have a planned and structured meeting to help them understand the effects of their addiction on both their own and your lives. It is also a chance to show them that you support them and give them options in terms of treatment.

You might want to seek professional help for the intervention. Interventionists can help you to prepare for the intervention, giving you advice about what to say, who should be involved, where to have it, and what you can expect from it. Depending on what is needed, they might be present at the invention itself in a leading role or as support, or they might only be involved in the planning of it.

Some people recommend setting ultimatums such as saying that you will no longer provide financial support to your loved one. However, this could backfire. It is more important to make sure that your loved one knows that they are supported and that you do not blame them for their substance use disorder.

On the other hand, it is important to be honest about how their addiction is affecting your family. You do not want to sugar-coat the facts. Make sure they know that you are on their side and that the most important thing is their well-being, but be clear about how you are being affected by their substance abuse.

Tell Them About their Options

Make sure that you have done research before the intervention. You should understand about the particular substance use disorder that they have as well as where they can go for support.

Substance Abuse Treatment

It is recommended to seek addiction treatment at an addiction treatment center. If your loved one is worried about the detox process and how difficult withdrawal symptoms will be, you can reassure them that a rehab center will manage these symptoms so that they are as comfortable as possible.

Medical professionals recommend that people with substance abuse problems go to an inpatient treatment center. These give you twenty-four-hour support during detox so that your withdrawal symptoms are managed and you cannot relapse during this time.

For people who cannot commit to inpatient treatment, there are also outpatient treatment options. This might suit people who have work or school commitments which they cannot miss.

Some addiction treatment centers will have specific admissions processes, so make sure you understand if your loved one will be eligible. You will also need to make sure that they have the financial means to go to rehab. It might be that their health insurance covers it, or your family might be able to help with the costs.

Support Groups

Support groups can be a great way to make sure that your loved one does not feel alone in their recovery. Speaking with people who are going through a similar experience can help them to feel supported. It can also teach them tips in order to remain drug or alcohol-free.

Support groups include Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous and can help develop coping skills. This method involves admitting that you are powerless and surrendering to the higher power of the 12-step recovery program.

Another method is SMART recovery which puts the recovery process more within your own hands. You focus on building and maintaining motivation, managing thoughts, feelings, and behaviors, and living a balanced life.

When is the Best Time to Suggest Getting Help?

Most people hit rock bottom before they get treatment. However, there may be times when your loved one is less resistant to help and is more open to seeking addiction treatment. These moments could occur after a bad comedown or hangover, or after bad behavior under the influence.

These might be the best times to consider having the intervention. However, it is important to know that even in these moments your loved one might be resistant to change.

Support Them Through the Recovery Process

If you want to make sure that your loved one remains drug and alcohol-free, it is important to support them through their recovery. This might involve accompanying them to the treatment facility or support groups, researching options for them, and being a good lister.

Their recovery will not end once they have finished rehab, so you should continue to offer them support following this. You might be able to support them by encouraging a healthy lifestyle such as exercising, cooking, or doing fun activities together.

Does Your Loved One Need Help?

You may wonder if your loved one really does have a substance abuse problem and if they need your support with it. It is understandable that you do not want to put your loved one under pressure or in a situation where they could react aggressively. However, most people need outside support to seek treatment as it is a very difficult thing to do alone.

Behavioral Symptoms of Addiction

Depending on which substance your loved one is abusing, they could have different physical and psychological symptoms. It is useful to research these to know what to look for.

Behavioral symptoms of addiction are less dependent on the specific substance and may include:

  • Withdrawing from friends and family members
  • Secretiveness
  • Lack of control of substance use
  • Loss of interest in hobbies
  • Poor performance at school or work
  • Compulsively seeking out and using the substance

Contact Us Today

Cornerstone has been a leading and respected rehab facility for more than forty years. We understand that everyone has a different story and different recovery needs and therefore work with you to build a treatment program which suits you. We focus on building a strong foundation for lasting recovery.

Our treatment options include:

  • Medically supervised withdrawal
  • Inpatient rehabilitation, detox, and recreation
  • Relapse prevention
  • Aftercare plan
  • Therapy (individual, group, and activity)
  • Educational seminars
  • 12-step program support groups

If your loved one is ready to seek treatment or you would like to find out more information to prepare for an intervention, please visit our website or call us on 800-233-9999. We offer a free consultation and insurance verification service.

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