States With Involuntary Commitment Laws

States with Involuntary Commitment Laws

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, in 2013 about 22.7 million Americans or 8.6 percent of the population needed treatment for a substance use disorder problem, but only 2.5 million people or 0.9 percent received treatment at a rehabilitation clinic. People who are addicted to drugs need help. A lot of the time they are afraid to ask because of the stigma attached to getting help. Other times, they may not even be aware that they have a problem. In either care, it can be an extremely difficult and painstaking decision to involuntarily commit a loved one for addiction treatment.

In 2018, in the United States, there were 67,367 drug-involved overdose deaths. This number is alarming, causing family members and lawmakers to look at ways to prevent these accidental deaths. One way to help keep people safe is involuntary commitment. Involuntary commitment enables mental health facilities to accept patients for an extended amount of time without the patient’s consent if they are displaying dangerous symptoms of mental illness, ie, causing a danger to self or others.

How Do Involuntary Commitment Laws Work?

How to involuntarily commit someone to drug rehab? Unfortunately, it is not as simple as being a concerned family member or friend to get someone involuntarily committed. A lot of the time the case needs to be taken to court and the judge needs to be presented with clear and convincing evidence proving that the loved one needs to be committed.

How to have someone committed to rehab against their will? In order for a person to be eligible for involuntary commitment into inpatient care, there must be clear and convincing evidence that the person is mentally ill, as a result of their mental illness poses a real and present threat to self and or other, if the person is not treated will continue to suffer mental distress to the point they cannot function independently, and can’t make rational and informed decisions.

In order for a person to be eligible for involuntary commitment in outpatient care, there needs to be clear and convincing evidence that the person is mentally ill if the person is not treated they will continue to suffer mental distress to the point they cannot function independently, and can’t make rational and informed decisions.

States With Involuntary Commitment Laws for Addiction Treatment

What states can force someone into rehab? It is possible to force someone into involuntary rehab for substance use disorder, alcoholism, or both, in 37 states and the District of Columbia as long as the strict guidelines are met.

The process, requirements, and length of commitment vary by each state. The states that permit involuntary commitment for either alcoholism or substance use disorder are Alaska, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, and Wisconsin.

However, a few of the states limit what they consider allowable for involuntary commitment. Montana and Rhode Island only permit involuntary commitment for alcoholism. Vermont only allows it for substance use disorder.

The states that do not permit involuntary commitment  for substance use and alcoholism are Alabama, Arizona, Idaho, Illinois, Maryland, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Utah, and Wyoming.

Does Rehab Work If It Is Not Voluntary?

It can be a very difficult decision trying to determine if it is even worth it to admit a loved one into a rehab clinic against their will. You may even be wondering if it will be worth going through all the trouble if your loved one is not motivated to be there.  A study published in Psychiatric Services found that outpatient involuntary commitment produced benefits such as greater treatment adherence, fewer days in the hospital, and fewer violent incidents only when people attended treatment for at least 6 months and mental health services were offered. When involuntary rehab was mandated for less than 6 months there were no benefits.

The article mentioned above also discussed the possible harm that can come when involuntarily committing a loved one. While involuntary commitment may achieve the immediate goal of preventing overdose, there is not a lot of research to support that it leads to prolonged abstinence and improved decision making. Unwanted commitment to treatment centers can potentially damage the person who is addicted to drugs, the trust of their families, and healthcare providers, it can disrupt their social functioning, and even threaten their employment. A more serious consequence of involuntary commitment can lead to the one thing family members were trying to prevent, overdose. According to a study published in the Drug and Alcohol Dependence Journal the average time to relapse following involuntary commitment for opioids was 72 days and 33.8 percent of people relapsed the same day as their release. Relapse can lead to overdose because when the person who is addicted to drugs gets out, they may relapse, and as a result of losing their tolerance for the drug they may overdose. Therefore, a lot of careful consideration needs to be taken before deciding to involuntarily commit a loved one.

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Can You Convince an Addict to Go to Rehab?

Based on the data above, the best thing to do is to try to convince a loved one to go to rehab on their own free will. This does not always work and sometimes you need additional help in the form of professional intervention. People who are suffering from addiction may be in denial and not realize that their actions are hurting themself and their loved ones. Therefore, a professional interventionist will help you organize an effective intervention by taking into consideration your loved one’s particular circumstance, offering the best approaches, and guiding you on the type of treatment and follow-up plan that is most likely to work.

Once you have a plan, gather your intervention team which should be composed of 4 to 6 people who are important in the life of your loved one. When approaching the loved one for the intervention it is best to provide specific examples of their destructive behaviors and the impact that is having on the family, offer a prearranged treatment plan that has defined steps and goals, and specifically tell them what each person will do if your loved one refuses treatment.

Unfortunately, not all interventions work out the way you hoped they would. Sometimes your loved one will refuse your treatment plan or will become enraged and tell you they don’t need help. If this doesn’t help, and your loved one is a serious danger to themself or others, putting them in involuntary rehab for their substance use disorder is the best way to help them.

Finding Treatment

People who are addicted to drugs need help overcoming their debilitating disease. The best way for you to help them is to get the medical and mental health support they need to overcome their addiction. Finding a high-quality rehab clinic can provide all the support and tools necessary to enable a loved one to recover from their addiction and return to a happy and healthy life.


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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