Forcing someone into a rehab program against their wishes is known as involuntary commitment. This can happen in the case of mental disorders and chemical dependency.
According to the National Judicial Opioid Task Force, in the state of Texas, the Health & Safety Code § 463.062 allows a county or district attorney or other adult to apply for court-ordered, involuntary treatment of a person:
- with an alleged “chemical dependency” (defined as someone who abuses, has an addiction to, or has a psychological or physical dependence on alcohol or a controlled substance)
- who is likely to cause serious harm to themselves or others
- will continue to suffer mental, emotional, or physical distress, causing them to deteriorate in their ability to function independently if left untreated
- is unable to make a rational and informed choice as to whether to submit to treatment.
When to Consider Involuntary Commitment to Rehab
Forcing anyone into rehab against their will is not something that can — or should — be done lightly. Involuntary commitment to a rehab facility may be necessary, however, if family and loved ones feel a person is endangering the health and safety of themselves or others.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that between April 2020 and April 2021, there were more than 100,000 drug overdose deaths in the United States, an increase of more than 28% from the previous year. With overdose deaths increasing, it is easy to understand why some may feel that forcing their loved ones into rehab is the answer.
Many people first try to convince a loved one struggling with addiction to enter rehab voluntarily. If that effort fails, they may feel that their only option is to involuntarily commit the person to addiction treatment.
In most cases, individuals will eventually agree to attend addiction treatment on their own. That is always the most preferable option for both family members and their loved one in need of treatment. Involuntary commitment is truly a last resort option.
However, if involuntary commitment for addiction is necessary, it may have an impact. Data gathered by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) has indicated that forcing someone into rehab does not mean the experience will be less effective.
Involuntary commitment to addiction treatment is a complicated process. Parents of minors can commit their child to rehab for substance abuse, but the process becomes much more challenging once they are over the age of 18.
The process of committing an adult to rehab requires proving that the individual’s addiction has become harmful to their health and well-being. For a person over 18 to be involuntarily placed in rehab, their loved ones must show the following:
- the individual has threatened, attempted, or inflicted physical harm on themselves or another person
- if the person is not detained, they will inflict physical harm on themselves or another person
- the person is so incapacitated by drugs or alcohol that they cannot provide for basic needs, such as food, shelter, and clothing.
Concerns About Involuntary Commitment to Addiction Treatment
Currently, 37 states and the District of Columbia make provisions for involuntary commitment for someone with substance use disorder. Texas is one of these states. Even though family members can force a loved one into rehab in these states, these laws are seldom used. This is because many ethical issues surround the idea of involuntary commitment.
One major concern is the type of treatment the addicted person will receive when involuntarily committed. No matter how they enter rehab, the individual should receive addiction treatment customized to their needs. For example, in many cases, individuals in need of treatment misuse multiple substances or have a co-occurring mental health disorder. Recognizing the different facets of their addiction is the best way to foster a successful outcome. If someone is involuntarily committed, they may not be able to fully take advantage of such personalization.
Another concern is whether it is ethical to commit a loved one to addiction treatment at all. Even if the individual is harming themselves with their substance use, many people feel they should be able to exercise their own free will to seek or refuse treatment. Others argue that addiction makes it very difficult for some people to recognize when they need help and that involuntary commitment may be necessary in dire circumstances.
Before investigating involuntary commitment options, concerned family and friends should make every effort to exert more informal pressure on their loved one to enter rehab. This approach is less extreme and will often prove effective in encouraging someone with an addiction to seek help. One such approach is to work with a professional interventionist who can guide a non-confrontational group intervention.
Building on a belief that spiritual development and healthy recovery can bring inner peace to clients overcoming addiction and substance abuse, Into Action Recovery Centers takes a people-centered approach to addiction treatment. Conveniently located in Houston, Texas, our rehab program is led by experienced master’s level counselors and medical professionals who specialize in personalized treatment for drug and alcohol abuse.