Should a Person Be Forced into Drug Addiction Treatment?

In the best scenario, a person with drug addiction recognizes it’s time to get clean, enters into rehab, and works hard to sustain their recovery. If you don’t suffer from addiction, this simple path seems like common sense. However, addiction recovery is rarely so easy. 

Addiction is a disease. It changes the brain’s chemical makeup to create the intense physical need for the addictive substance. In addition, many people who suffer from addiction have underlying, often undiagnosed and untreated, mental health conditions for which drug use offers a form of relief. In other words, it’s not easy to stop using.

If you are a parent, spouse, or adult child or a person with substance use disorder, you want your loved one to enter treatment for very good reasons. You want them to be healthy, happy, and free. Getting professional treatment seems like the obvious answer. But should you force your loved one into treatment?

The Potential Downside of Mandatory Rehab

Forced drug and alcohol treatment often comes in the form of a court order. While this type of care can help many people get sober, that sobriety may be less likely to last. When someone does not make the decision on their own to enter treatment, they may have less motivation to make the lifestyle changes necessary to sustain a long-lasting recovery. Also, court-mandated short-term drug treatment programs may not be enough to give someone the tools needed for long-term relief.

When Can a Person be Required to Seek Treatment?

Most states allow a person to be subject to court-mandated drug and alcohol detox programs. Not all states, however, allow a family member to commit a loved one to detox. In states where families can commit loved ones, they must first prove that the addiction exists and that the addiction is making the person a danger to the health or safety of themselves or of other people.

It’s important to note that no one can be committed to long-term treatment. Courts and families can typically require only short-term detox, lasting from several days to about two weeks, depending on the situation and the state’s laws. While detox is an important first step in recovery, it is only the beginning. People with substance use disorders typically require follow-up care with long-term treatment, therapy, and aftercare to sustain their recovery.  

What Needs to Happen for a Person to Heal?

Just being in the building where therapy is provided is not enough. Most people need to make a personal decision to heal and recover. That takes more than just being enrolled in a program. It means being committed to change. You can’t force a person to make this commitment. 

If your loved one has completed detox and is open to further treatment, consider the following questions when searching for the right type of treatment.

What level of care do they need? Inpatient treatment and outpatient treatment are both options. A counselor can help determine which level of care is necessary for your loved one. 

Will they get mental disorder treatment? It is very common for men and women to have depression, anxiety, or post-traumatic stress disorder underlying their addiction. These mental health disorders must be treated along with the addiction for the person to have a chance at long-term recovery. 

What Can Be Done Instead of Mandatory Treatment?

If you are a family member wondering what you can do when your loved one is struggling with drugs or alcohol, consider having an in-depth conversation with them. 

  • Talk about the impact the addiction is having on you and your family.
  • Tell your loved one that you understand just how hard everything is right now for them.
  • Discuss their disease.
  • Express what you want them to do.
  • Ask them to seek help; refer them to a treatment center that is available to them right now.

Before you try to force a person into treatment, consider the opportunity a professional intervention can offer. For many people, it can be just what they need to motivate them to seek help.

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