Can You Force Someone Into Rehab When They Refuse Treatment?

Can You Force Someone Into Rehab When They Refuse Treatment?

May 21st, 2018

Caring for someone who struggles with addiction can leave you feeling hopeless. If you have set boundaries or pleaded with your loved one to seek treatment without success, it’s time to come up with a new strategy. You might consider “committing” your loved one to treatment, even if it’s against their will. But is that even possible? And if so, is it effective?

How to Legally Force Someone into Rehab

Forced rehabilitation isn’t as easy as pushing someone through the door of a clinic. Treatment centers require either voluntary admission or a court order to treat a patient. There are ways to legally force rehab when your loved one resists, but you must follow the proper procedures for each method. You must also to be willing to disclose illegal activity to authorities and force your loved one to face their addiction head-on.

Legal Consequences

The most severe and effective way to force someone into rehab is by reporting substance abuse, which may result in criminal charges. It’s important to communicate with authorities beforehand to make sure that they are in agreement with recommending rehab as a legal consequence. In some cases, it’s necessary to contact authorities or emergency services without a plan. Some instances include:

  • Violent or erratic behavior, including threats of harm to self or others
  • Overdose symptoms
  • Obvious neglect of a child, animal, or senior

Behaviors which could result in harm or death are important to report, regardless of the consequences your loved one could face. Early intervention of potentially life-threatening behavior can prevent more severe repercussions down the road.

Emergency Court-Ordered Rehab

If your loved one is a threat to the safety of self or others as a result of daily substance abuse, it’s possible to petition for emergency court-ordered rehab. It’s important to document all dangerous behavior and incidents to show a judge that forced treatment is necessary. Having psychiatric and legal officials on your side can help to expedite this process. You’ll need to speak with local authorities for specific regulations in your jurisdiction.

What Happens If You Leave Court-Ordered Rehab?

Leaving court-ordered rehab can have serious consequences, which will be explained by a judge before sentencing. In some cases, treatment is given in lieu of jail time. If someone leaves court-ordered rehab early, they have failed to uphold their terms of release and will be required to finish their sentence in jail.
Violating an emergency court-order is still a serious offense, even if there were no initial criminal charges. A judge will administer an arrest warrant—fines, probation, community service, or jail time could result.

Violating Court-Ordered Rehab

When a judge has ordered a defendant to attend treatment, certain violations carry more serious consequences than others. If the patient is caught selling or consuming substances, the court may press further criminal charges. The punishment for violating court-ordered rehab depends on the type of violation, frequency, criminal history, and behavior during treatment. Often times a single relapse will not completely reverse a sentencing. Repeat offenses may result in a longer sentence and larger fines. All of this will be covered by the judge during initial sentencing.

Who Pays For Court-Ordered Rehab?

In most cases, the defendant is responsible for funding court-ordered rehab. The defendant will have a choice of facilities which meet the criteria set by the court. Some insurances and community programs may be available to help with the cost, which will not be due up front in most cases.

Does Court-Ordered Rehab Work?

A large percentage of offenders in the criminal justice system report that legal pressure actually increased their focus in rehab. Incarceration is a powerful consequence, and freedom is an even more powerful reward. Whether or not your loved one is looking forward to rehab, the process is the same:

  • Patients are guided through recovery in a controlled environment.
  • A medically supervised detox will ease the discomfort of withdrawal.
  • Support staff will monitor and counsel patients to ensure that the treatment is working as it should.

Once sober, patients are given resources to continue recovery outside of rehab. After a patient has left a treatment center, it’s important for those close to them to continue supporting recovery without enabling further substance abuse. Keep the lines of communication open, and have a plan ready in the event of relapse. Being proactive and following through with consequences will ensure that rehabilitation will continue long after treatment.

Will My Loved One Hate Me for Trying to Help?

Pursuing legal interference may cause your loved one to feel anger toward everyone involved. Substance abuse often leads to irrational thoughts and behavior which can be painful to experience. Sobriety will help your loved one to “wise up” and reflect on the decisions made while under the influence. The experience will most likely (and hopefully) result in apology for their behavior and appreciation for your involvement.

Support for Friends and Family

Pursuing legal action against a loved one is more difficult than filing the correct paperwork. Once a decision has been made on your part, it’s crucial to have support of your own. The key to a successful legal intervention is preparation. If you have access to an attorney, they may be able to help you through the process. The support of family, friends, or a counselor can help you stick with your decision and provide moral support through this difficult time.

If you or someone you know needs guidance with court-ordered rehabilitation, you are not alone. Our advisors are here to provide resources and answer any questions you may have. Call us today—we’re here for you!


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