There is something about addiction that makes families feel powerless. Parents, spouses and siblings watch helplessly as their loved ones seemingly self-destruct. So often, our Treatment Specialists take calls from desperate parents, grandparents, husbands or wives – calling on behalf of their addicted loved one. So often, our Treatment Specialists here the question, “How can I make him get help?”
It’s an understandable situation. In an ideal world, relatives would simply be able to confront an addicted loved one – and he or she would agree to get treatment. In this ideal world, the addicted person would be grateful for the suggestion and immediately enter a rehab program. Unfortunately, if you’ve ever dealt with addiction – you know this scenario isn’t ever the case. More than likely, there will be arguments, denial, lying and excuses. So, when you’ve reached the end of your rope, is there a way to force a loved one to go to rehab?
Legally Forcing Rehab
In some states, relatives are legally able to force addicted loved ones into an addiction treatment program. Some states have passed these laws because of tragic deaths related to addiction and overdose. For example, one of the most well known forced rehab laws is in Kentucky: Casey’s Law allows family members involuntarily commit loved ones for addiction. The law was passed after a young man died from a heroin overdose – and his mother pushed for action and resources for other families.
This type of mandate is now being pushed in states like Pennsylvania – which up until now, has only allowed involuntary commitment for people with drug or alcohol addiction only if they are diagnosed as mentally ill. Pennsylvania’s new proposed legislation would allow a spouse, relative or guardian to submit a petition for involuntary commitment to a county administrator for an evaluation. Then, the addicted loved one would be sent to a health facility to be examined by a physician who would determine if and how long the person would receive treatment.
Pros Vs. Cons Of Involuntary Rehab
At Vertava Health, we treat individuals from every walk of life. Some people come to us physically, mentally and emotionally engaged and ready for a change. Some people we treat come to us based on court orders or child custody situations. We have also treated people who have come to us because of mandates like Casey’s Law.
We believe that any time a person can admit to an accredited rehab facility and receive addiction treatment, it is beneficial – regardless of how the person got there. However, there are pros and cons of forced rehab.
Pros Of Forced Rehab
In states where it is possible to petition the court to mandate addiction treatment for a loved one, you must have proof that he or she could potentially cause harm to self or others. It may seem obvious to you that your loved one is harming himself by losing a job – or hurting others by not showing up for family gatherings. However, this proof usually needs to be to a higher degree. Think, if your relative is so absorbed in heroin that he is failing to seek medical treatment for other health complications. In these types of cases, it may be possible to force rehab.
The biggest benefit to involuntary rehab is that it could save your loved one’s life. Without intervention and treatment, your loved one could potentially face a fatal consequence such as a car wreck under the influence, or even an overdose. Just because treatment is ordered through the court systems doesn’t mean will be ineffective. In fact, research has shown that even when rehab treatment is court ordered, many people will continue their treatment path and enter long-term recovery. A court-ordered treatment is still treatment – and his or her chance to truly make changes and find healing.
Cons Of Forced Rehab
Often times, families feel as though the only way a loved one will ever enter an addiction treatment program is by force. Families see their loved ones falling apart in front of them – and they feel helpless. The hope would be that involuntary rehab could snap him or her out of the cycle of destruction. However, forced rehab isn’t always the best case for some individuals.
The fact remains that addiction isn’t about pleasure. While some families may believe that their addicted loved ones are drinking or doing drugs because they enjoy it – that’s hardly the case. The reality is that, by the time a person is addicted, the fun is gone. In addiction, drugs or alcohol become the only safety and comfort for a person; they aren’t about joy or pleasure.
By forcing a loved one into rehab, a person may become resentful that you took away his or her safety or comfort. He or she may fail to understand that your decision was based on love – and instead, feel abandoned by your actions. There can be a fine line to walk or a fine balance to uncover in the relationship.
In addition to these feelings, research has shown that rehab is more effective when a person is motivated and ready – rather than forced – to make a change. When a person is forced into treatment, the odds of success will inherently be lower than a person who is motivated.
If You’re Considering Forced Rehab
The best chance of a successful recovery happens with voluntary treatment with addiction experts who utilize effective, medical and evidence-based treatment methods. If you have a loved one who is in active drug or alcohol addiction, it’s crucial that you do everything you are able to in order to lovingly support and convince him or her that they need help. Working with a treatment specialist or professional interventionist can help you in your efforts.
We understand that not every rehab situation will be 100% voluntary. However, if you feel as though you have exhausted all other options, forced rehab isn’t something to be taken lightly. You must weigh the pros and cons and make the best decision for you and your family.