It can be heartbreaking to watch a loved one struggle with substance abuse, whether they drink too much, abuse prescription medications or take illicit drugs like cocaine and heroin. The worry, the sleepless nights, the arguments. Eventually, you realize your loved one needs professional treatment for a substance use disorder (SUD), be it a voluntary or involuntary rehab.

But what if they refuse to get help for their substance abuse? In some cases, involuntary rehab treatment is an option, but it depends on where you live and how old your loved one is. Some states allow involuntary treatment for minors and forbid it for adults. Others have involuntary commitment laws to help adults with SUD get the help they need.

Statistics on Substance Use Disorder and Addiction

Involuntary commitment isn’t something to take lightly, but it can be a life-saving measure for people with severe addictions. Statistics on drug and alcohol use in the United States show why some states have made it easier for people to get their loved ones the treatment they need, even if they don’t realize they need it.

In a survey of Americans aged 12 and older, nearly 20% of respondents reported that they had misused prescription drugs or used illicit drugs within the past year. When alcohol is added to the mix, more than 60% of Americans 12 years of age and older currently abuse drugs, which is defined as drug abuse occurring within the past 30 days.

When Is Involuntary Rehab Appropriate?

When you have a drug or alcohol addiction, it can be difficult to recognize the harmful effects of substance abuse in your life. Many people continue using substances even after experiencing serious medical problems or psychological symptoms, demonstrating the control drugs and alcohol can have over a person’s mind. From the outside looking in, it’s clear alcoholism and drug addiction have serious physical and psychological consequences, but someone who uses alcohol or drugs regularly may be unwilling to seek help.

In some cases, it’s possible to commit someone to a treatment facility even if they refuse voluntary treatment. In Florida, for example, the Marchman Act allows for the involuntary commitment of an individual who’s impaired by substance abuse and meets at least one of the following criteria:

  • The individual has caused or threatened to cause physical harm against themselves or another person.
  • The individual is likely to cause or threaten to cause physical harm against themselves or another person.
  • The individual needs substance abuse services and is so impaired by their substance use that they can’t recognize the need for treatment and make a rational decision regarding their care.

If someone with a substance abuse problem qualifies for admission under the Marchman Act or other involuntary commitment statutes, the drug and alcohol rehab facility is responsible for admitting them to the least restrictive setting possible and providing a safe environment during addiction treatment.

Involuntary Commitment Without a Court Order

Under the Marchman Act, involuntary treatment requires a court order unless the commitment occurs in the following circumstances:

  • Protective custody: A law enforcement officer may detain a person who meets the criteria for an impaired person. Once the person is detained, they may be taken to a detox center, addiction treatment facility or municipal jail. If the officer decides to take the person to jail, the person in charge of the detention facility must notify the closest licensed addiction services provider within eight hours of intake. The individual must also be transported from the jail to the treatment facility.
  • Emergency: Any responsible adult who has knowledge of an individual’s substance use may ask for an emergency admission. This includes the parent, legal guardian or legal custodian of a minor. If the individual is admitted to a residential treatment program, they must be assessed by a physician within 72 hours. For an individual admitted to an outpatient rehab program, the assessment must occur within five days.

Concerned people comforting upset man at group therapy session meeting in rehab, panorama

Court-Ordered Treatment

Not everyone meets the criteria for involuntary commitment without a court order. For these people, the Marchman involuntary commitment law allows for court-ordered involuntary treatment in certain circumstances. An individual may qualify for involuntary assessment or admission to a court-ordered treatment program if a spouse, family member, guardian, physician or director of a licensed service provider submits a petition for treatment. Any three adults with personal knowledge of the individual’s substance abuse may also submit this petition. For a minor child, the parent or legal guardian is responsible for submitting a petition for court-ordered involuntary commitment.

If the individual is admitted for involuntary assessment and stabilization, the initial length of stay can’t exceed five days; however, the treatment provider may request an extension if it’s not possible to complete the assessment or stabilize the person within the five-day period.

If the individual is admitted for involuntary substance abuse treatment, the admission can last for up to 60 days. The individual may be discharged before the 60-day period ends for any of these reasons:

  • They no longer meet the criteria for involuntary commitment and consent to being transferred to a voluntary treatment program.
  • They were admitted due to their risk of harm and no longer meet that criteria for admission.
  • It becomes clear additional addiction treatment won’t result in additional improvements in their condition.
  • They no longer need addiction treatment.
  • The provider can’t manage their care safely.

Approved Treatment Centers

If involuntary commitment laws are used to admit someone for treatment, they must be admitted to an addictions receiving facility. This type of facility is defined as a secure facility that provides detoxification and stabilization services, is open 24 hours per day and has been designated by the Florida Department of Children and Families to serve people who are impaired by their substance abuse and meet the criteria for involuntary admission.

Involuntary Commitment Laws in Other States

Involuntary commitments are handled at the state level, so the rules for forcing someone to go to drug rehab aren’t the same in every state. Individuals outside of Florida may have to meet at least one of these criteria:

  • Risk of danger to themselves or other people
  • Lack of ability to make decisions regarding their care
  • Disabled due to alcoholism or drug abuse
  • Complete loss of control
  • Inability to handle personal affairs due to substance abuse

Other states also have different rules regarding who can petition for involuntary commitment, although each state requires an individual with a substance use disorder to be assessed by a licensed medical professional. The initial length of stay may vary by state, especially if an individual no longer meets the criteria for involuntary admission once they begin treatment.

Group therapy for drug addiction symptoms and effects

Effectiveness of Involuntary Rehab Admission

Family members often wonder if they should take the monumental step of forcing a loved one to go to drug rehab. They may even wonder if involuntary admission is effective. Unfortunately, there’s been a lack of research on this topic, but anecdotal evidence shows involuntary admission can help save lives. If someone is so impaired that they can’t make rational decisions regarding their medical needs, forced rehab can give them an opportunity to detox in a safe environment and start addressing the underlying causes of their addiction.

Depending on which involuntary commitment law is applied, involuntary admission may be more effective for people struggling with a mental illness that hasn’t been treated. Regardless of the outcome, family members can rest easy knowing they’re doing the best they can to help an addicted person get help for their drug abuse or alcohol abuse.

Avoiding Civil Commitment

The best way to get a loved one the help they need is to convince them to go to rehab voluntarily. If the addicted person isn’t quite ready to seek help, family members can make it easier by researching nearby rehab programs and determining which one is most likely to meet their needs. Loved ones can also look for ways to pay for a rehab program, such as using private insurance, applying Medicaid benefits or raising funds from family members and friends.

Depending on the circumstances, it may also be possible to have a doctor or other health care professional speak with the addicted person and explain the imminent risk of continuing to use drugs or alcohol without professional treatment.

Seek Treatment Now

Behavioral Health Centers offers personalized treatment at our Florida rehab to people struggling with addictions to alcohol, cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine and other substances. In addition to individual therapy, we offer family counseling and other services to help addicted individuals get well. To learn more about our personalized rehab programs, call (772) 774-3872 today.

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