Steps How to Get Someone into Rehab

You may have a loved one showing signs of a substance use disorder problem. Perhaps they’re using more often, or talking about cutting back and finding themselves unable. They might be continuing to use, even if it’s straining personal relationships or making a mess of work, home, or school responsibilities.

Those are just a few of the warning signs that there’s a dependence or addiction taking root. You know that people misusing drugs or alcohol are hurting themselves as well as the people they care about. You know they need to slow or stop use.

The question then becomes, can you make someone go to rehab?

If a loved one has mentioned that they’re struggling or they think they have a problem, but you sense some hesitation on their part, be willing to attend a meeting or see an addiction specialist with them.

Twelve-step programs such as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and support groups such as SMART Recovery hold regular meetings full of people facing similar struggles. An addiction specialist can provide answers on types of therapies and treatment options.

By reaching out to a rehab facility, people might find answers to several questions, including questions about insurance matters as well as the courses of available treatment. Also, simply showing support may be enough to get your loved one to make that first step toward sobriety.

How to Find Someone a Rehab

If someone is willing to check into a rehabilitation facility or even consider one in the first place, that’s one big challenge ticked off the list.

The next question is how to find one. The Substance Use Disorder and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), an agency of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, is a good spot to start. Its main objective is to help Americans with substance use disorder and mental illness issues.

Besides hotlines that offer referrals and information — the number is 800-662-HELP (4357) — SAMHSA also has an online treatment locator.

Site visitors can use that locator to search by location and search for various options. Substance use disorder treatment options include:

  • Inpatient, outpatient, and residential facilities.
  • Programs for different age groups, LGBTQ members, military veterans, and believers of specific religions.
  • Treatments that address co-occurring disorders such as depression, anxiety, or other mental illnesses.
  • Approaches that use telemedicine (virtual, online health assistance).
  • Centers and programs that accept private insurance or other financing offers, such as Medicaid.

Once people find facilities on the SAMHSA search, they can ask people at the facilities more questions about payment options and coverage. They’re very likely going to be questions for many, after all.

The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) also has information on where to look for assistance and how to offer moral support. NIDA also has questions to consider when people are trying to choose a particular treatment program.

How to Get Someone in Rehab

When someone shows resistance to enter treatment, a concerned friend can research treatment centers on their own. Be sure to consider ones that offer evidence-based treatments and medical supervision.

A thorough program will include mental and physical assessments (to help people with co-occurring disorders), proven therapies, substance use monitoring, clinical and case management, recovery support programs, and continuing care plans.

Addiction treatment programs should be a combination of both mental and medical treatment as well as educational and vocational service. Ideally, with a list of options to consider, the friend or loved one will be more open to making that call.

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How to Get an Addict into Rehab

It’s pretty difficult to force a person into a rehab facility.

A parent of an underage adolescent (17 or younger) in theory can do so, since they’re the legal guardian, but it’s complicated. Some states tip authority in the parent’s direction; others toward the adolescent. Some states don’t define it clearly, either. It also varies according to whether it’s inpatient vs. outpatient drug or mental health treatment, and the age of the patient.

For a legal adult, it gets trickier.

One option is involuntary commitment.

An Associated Press story found the practice is gaining some momentum, in large part due to the opioid crisis. It may involve a parent of an adult child petitioning the courts to have them committed against their will. In some cases it can mean a 30-day stay in a state facility or prison.

Critics have likened involuntary commitment to forced detox, which isn’t always safe, depending on the substance a person has abused. It’s a good idea to taper slowly from substances such as benzodiazepines (benzos), for example.

Many doctors, law enforcement officials, and civil rights advocates argue that involuntary commitment violates due process rights, puts people at risk for relapse or overdose, and places a greater burden on emergency rooms.

Each U.S. state has different laws too. About 35 have civil commitment provisions in place where families or medical professionals can petition a judge to order people into treatment. (There’s no need to involve the criminal justice system in these cases.) That hinges on proving whether the people in question are dangers to themselves or others.

The upshot is a person can be committed — if the courts deem it so — before hitting rock bottom, facing criminal charges or jail time, or risking overdose, sexually transmitted diseases, or infections from shared needles.

Some U.S. states allow police to civilly commit a person, usually for a short period, about three days. Others allow mental health professionals to practice short-term emergency authority. (They often still need to go before a judge for approval.)

Requests for involuntary commitment are on the rise, though. The Associated Press story about the practice found that Florida alone had more than 10,000 requests for commitment in 2015 and 2016. That’s compared to 4,000-plus requests in 2000.

Proponents argue that those who do get involuntarily committed tend to be the sickest, and at the greatest risk of overdosing.

In cases where prison is the only other option, addiction rehab may hold greater appeal.


  • – How to Recognize a Substance Use Disorder
  • – Behavioral Health Treatment Services Locator
  • – How to Find Help
  • – Seeking Drug Abuse Treatment: Know What to Ask
  • – What Can Parents Do? A Review of State Laws Regarding Decision Making for Adolescent Drug Abuse and Mental Health Treatment
  • – In the Addiction Battle, Is Forced Rehab the Solution?
  • – Opioid Overdose Crisis
  • – Management of Benzodiazepine Misuse and Dependence
  • – Civil Commitment and the Mental Health Care Continuum: Historical Trends and Principles for Law and Practice
  • – Civil Commitment for Opioid and Other Substance Use Disorders: Does It Work?

Medical disclaimer:

Sunshine Behavioral Health strives to help people who are facing substance abuse, addiction, mental health disorders, or a combination of these conditions. It does this by providing compassionate care and evidence-based content that addresses health, treatment, and recovery.

Licensed medical professionals review material we publish on our site. The material is not a substitute for qualified medical diagnoses, treatment, or advice. It should not be used to replace the suggestions of your personal physician or other health care professionals.

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