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Recovery By Requirement: What You Need to Know

Therapist meeting with her patient

In certain cases, drug courts legally require individuals to be involuntarily committed to addiction treatment. To be compliant, the person must be enrolled in a drug or alcohol rehab program, regardless of their preferences. Of course, removing a person’s freedom of choice is a complex and controversial one with many facets.

Can You Force Someone Into Rehab?

Yes, depending on your state’s laws. As a court order, involuntary commitment aims to create legal accountability and ensure a person gets the help they need. It may be ordered in place of jail time or added as a condition of probation or parole.

These laws developed as it became clear that incarceration alone isn’t ideal for crimes involving substance use disorders. Many believe that treating the underlying addiction is an important way to reduce recidivism (reoffending).

The Ethics of Drug Court Requirements

Legally requiring someone to go to treatment ignores personal freedoms in favor of whatever the court deems best for the individual and for public interest. In the case of minors, it’s easy to understand the duty of parents and authorities to guard them. For adults, it’s less clear.

While the laws may intend for a sort of “tough love,” those who enforce the law are human and imperfect. Some see drug courts as giving local authorities too much control, stepping on the rights and autonomy of the individual. Some also argue that involuntary commitment has an inherent risk of human rights abuses and adds to the stigma of addiction.

Regardless, all sides agree: those involved deserve to be freed from the addiction that rules their lives.

Implementing Involuntary Commitment

Involuntary treatment orders are typically reserved for non-violent crimes that are somehow influenced by addiction. However, determining how severe the addiction is and how great the risks are requires careful consideration.

To determine whether commitment is appropriate, drug courts work with law enforcement, healthcare, family and other involved parties to gather relevant information. Clinical observations, police reports, family testimony and other details will help the court understand the role of the addiction. If the court decides the addicted person will pose a significant enough risk without rehab, they will order mandated treatment.

Is Mandated Addiction Treatment Effective?

Text addiction treatment from wooden blocks

Even if someone doesn’t want to go to rehab, research suggests that those who are mandated into treatment are more likely to successfully complete it than those who enter programs voluntarily.¹ Research on relapse rates and long-term outcomes is less clear. While some suggest overall positive results, others argue there is little difference, and that forcing someone into rehab may cause psychological and emotional harm.²

Whatever the truth may be, current mandatory treatment laws mean that drug courts’ orders must be followed. If you’ve been ordered into rehab, the best course of action is to enroll in a good program and complete your legal requirements.

Finding the Right Balance and Moving Forward

With the intricate issues surrounding involuntary commitment, it’s crucial to strike the right balance between legal, ethical and public safety concerns. As we learn more and understand the effects of this practice, laws and treatment programs will have the opportunity to advance and improve.

At Del Arroyo Recovery Center, we help individuals break free from their addictions and build a foundation for a new life. Whether it’s by choice or by court order, our luxury rehab facility in Agoura Hills, CA is an ideal place to get effective, life-changing substance abuse treatment. Contact us today to start your journey.


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