Many addicts are the last to recognize that they have a problem. Others feel that they can solve it themselves, without the need for admission into a full-fledged rehabilitation program. Still, some exasperated parents and siblings may not be willing to wait for a family member to sort out their addictions on their own, and will seek to forcibly institutionalize them.
But is that legal? Can you be compelled to go to rehab against your will?
Just Say No
The general answer is: No. Most state laws don't permit forcible rehab of adults (outside of criminal sentencing for drug- or alcohol-related crimes, of course). And almost no rehab facilities will admit a patient who doesn't want to be there -- both out of legal liability issues and because a recalcitrant patient is rarely successful at managing their issues. This is not true for children, however. A parent or legal guardian can put a person under the age of 18 into a rehab program without their permission.
So, for the most part, while your family may come up with a compelling argument for you to go to rehab (and perhaps withhold money, room, or board in exchange for such a deal), they can't legally compel you enter a rehab or treatment facility.
There are some exceptions to that rule, though. If someone believes a person is a danger to themselves or others, most states allow a temporary period of custody or a "hold" on them for assessment and possible treatment. Known in California as a "5150" (in reference to the section of the Welfare Institutions Code under which it is permitted), it allows officers to take a person into custody "for a period of up to 72 hours for assessment, evaluation, and crisis intervention," if that person "as a result of a mental health disorder, is a danger to others, or to himself or herself, or gravely disabled."
Such holds are often temporary, although some statutes allow doctors to recommend a longer custody period if the person requires intensive treatment prior to their release.
Family members may be at their wits' end when it comes to a loved one dealing with addiction. But for better or worse, forced rehab is normally not one of their options. If you're the family member or the loved one struggling with addiction in this scenario, consider contacting an experienced health care attorney to discuss your legal options
By Christopher Coble, Esq.