Can You Force Your Family Member to Attend Rehab?

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If your family member is struggling with a substance use disorder or addiction, there’s nothing you wouldn’t do to get them help. From staging an intervention to offering to pay for the financial aspects of rehab, you’d do it all. When addiction starts to get dangerous for a loved one, some families start to think about their options. Can I force my loved one into rehab? That’s a question many family members ask. In this article we’ll explore the answer to that very complex question. 

Can You Admit Someone to Rehab Against Their Will?

For the most part the answer is “no.” Most states don’t have legislation that allows someone to admit someone else into rehab without consent. However, there are cases when it is possible, and we’ll explore those cases more in-depth below. 

But, first, there are ways to get your loved one into rehab without force. Try these first. 

  1. Stage an intervention. Before staging an intervention you should consult with a mental health and/or substance abuse professional. 
  2. Suggest rehab lightly. Sometimes all someone needs is a little push. Be that little push for your loved one. 

What are Involuntary Commitment Laws? 

When suggestions and interventions don’t work, what else is there? Involuntary commitment laws are legal procedures that allow individuals to get the help they need, even against their own will. These are laws governing adults, minors are different. 


If the loved one you want committed is a minor, there are laws to assist you in getting them help. The parents and guardians of minors have rights when it comes to their children. Because of this you may be able to help your minor loved one into substance abuse treatment. Check out the laws in your individual state to get a better idea. 


Involuntary commitment laws vary per state. Some states have less stringent laws than others. Whichever state you’re in, there are a series of criteria that must be met to prove that your loved one is in need of involuntary commitment. This criteria must be presented in a court of law, a judge will make the final decision. 

Must Be Proven in Court: 

  • The individual has an alcohol use or substance abuse disorder. 
  • The individual is at a significant risk of harming themselves or someone else. They have already harmed someone or they have already harmed themselves. 
  • The individual can no longer provide for themselves because of their substance use disorder. They are no longer able to go to work, school or etc. 

More on Involuntary Commitment 

Once involuntary commitment procedures are started, the individual has the right to legal representation. If they can’t afford an attorney, one will be given to them by the court. The individual will need to demonstrate financial difficulty to qualify for a court-appointed lawyer. 

One of the first petitions the lawyer will likely file is called a writ of habeas corpus. This petition establishes whether or not the individual is legally detained. If the court determines that the individual was not legally detained (for whatever reason) they will be released from their treatment commitments. The unfortunate truth is, for many, being released from involuntary commitment can mean the individual will go back to the streets and go back to consuming drugs. 

Involuntary commitment treatment usually lasts for a period of two weeks. During this time the individual is put into an intensive inpatient program. After that, the treatment center will determine what’s next. Some individuals require additional intensive care. Others may be deemed “able to care for themselves.” Then they’re given a treatment plan that includes outpatient treatment services. Once the terms of the treatment are met the individual goes back to court and is released from the commitment. 

How Do I Get Help in California? Understanding California 5150

If your loved one lives in the state of California, Bill 5150 may help. California 5150, also called the “5150 Hold”  is a bill that allows you to initiate a mental health assessment for a loved one. While the bill doesn’t guarantee treatment, it is a first step. According to the state’s legislative database, the bill aims to help individuals who have a “mental health disorder” and are a danger to themselves or others. If an individual meets that criteria, a mobile crisis team takes the individual into custody for a period of up to 72 hours. During that time period the individual is assessed and evaluated for treatment. They’re also met with crisis intervention, if needed. 

Does Involuntary Commitment Work? 

Getting your loved one into treatment is one thing, getting them into treatment when they don’t want to be there is another. So, does involuntary commitment actually work? Well, there isn’t a ton of evidence to say that it works or it doesn’t work. But, we do know two things: 

  1. Treatment outcomes are not significantly different for those that enter of their own volition and those that are mandated by court, according to reporting conducted by  SAMHSA. This article delves into the effectiveness of diverting people from the criminal justice system and the role treatment plays. 
  2. Individuals who attend treatment because of a court order often stay there longer than those who sign up themselves. 

In Conclusion

In an ideal situation your loved one will enter treatment because they want to. But, when that isn’t the story, there are options. The first option is to stage an intervention. Another idea is to lightly push them towards rehab. If that doesn’t work, you may want to pursue some of the legal tools at your disposal, including California’s 5150 Hold, which allows an individual with a mental health concern to be held for a period of up to 72 hours, and/or involuntary commitment laws, which vary per state. 

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