Can You Send a Person to Drug Rehab Against His or Her Will?

In many cases, people who struggle with substance use have difficulty recognizing and accepting that a real problem exists, and that professional help is absolutely necessary. Even if an addicted person knows that he has a problem with drug addiction, he may still be unwilling to accept treatment for it. Professional treatment for a substance use disorder (and any other co-occurring mental health concerns) is the most successful way to overcome addiction and experience lasting wellness.

If someone you care about is in active addiction, chances are that you have been incredibly worried for a long period of time. You (or your whole family) may have debated what to do. Perhaps you have tried persuading your loved one. If you are considering sending him or her to rehab on an involuntary basis, you have probably considered a number of other options already.

It can be difficult to persuade an addicted person receive professional treatment if he is unwilling to accept it. In some cases, it may be necessary for family members to send an addicted person to treatment against his or her will.

This is easier if your addicted loved one is under the age of 18 and you are his or her legal guardian. Most states allow custodial parents to make these decisions. The real question is: once your loved one enters treatment, will he or she actually participate, listen, and gain the best out of the experience?

If the addicted person is 18 years of age or older, they are a legal adult and cannot be forced into rehab without a court order.


Making a Loved One Enter Rehab: Laws in Different States

In most states an addicted person must be convicted of some sort of crime in order to be sentenced to a rehab program for addiction. There are few states that have laws that allow concerned friends and family members to appeal to a court about ordering an addicted loved one into rehab.

Many states have “involuntary commitment” rulings for people who are actively dangerous to themselves or others, but these rules apply more to a person’s mental health state than a state of addiction. Involuntary commitment may be a possibility if the addiction is very dangerous to the person’s mental health.

There are a few laws in the books that may help you get your loved one into treatment:

The Baker Act

Many people have heard of the Baker Act, even if only on television or movies. This act goes by different names in different states, but is often recognized by the name it was given in Florida. It is also known under police codes 5150 and 302, Casey’s Law, Kendra’s Law, 72-hour hold, or a 5-day hold. The Baker Act allows for a judge to order a person to go into mental health treatment (usually residential treatment) if he or she is a threat to self or others.

The Marchman Act

This act, formerly known as the “Hal S. Marchman Alcohol and Other Drug Services Act of 1993” has been in effect in Florida for quite some time. A number of other states are working to enact this law because of the devastating effects of the opioid epidemic. This law states that families and law enforcement can send a person into rehab involuntarily if the addiction poses a threat to that person or the people around that person.

The process to help loved one enter rehab, even against his or her will:
  • In many states, a spouse, relative, guardian, private practitioner or any three adults with personal knowledge of the person’s substance abuse may file a petition for court-ordered involuntary treatment
  • A court date is then set to determine if the person in question meets the criteria for substance use assessment
  • If the subject is assessed and it is determined by the assessor that treatment is needed, a court date will be set to determine if involuntary treatment will be ordered

The length of court-ordered involuntary treatment varies from state-to-state and case-to-case. Unlike jail, most rehab facilities are not under lockdown, so if a person who is court ordered to be in treatment decides to leave before the rehab program is completed, that person may be held in contempt of court.

When to Consider a Professional Interventionist

licensed professional interventionistThere are many ways to help someone you love that may be abusing alcohol or drugs. If an involuntary commitment or entrance into drug rehab by force is not possible, you may want to consider hiring an experienced addiction interventionist.

In most states, concerned friends and family members cannot force an addicted loved one into treatment and, even if they could, the results are not always successful.

An addicted typically responds best to voluntary treatment and the likelihood of a successful recovery is also increased when treatment is accepted instead of forced. Seeking out professional services and staging an intervention with the help of an interventionist is typically the best way to get an unwilling addict person to see his need for treatment.


Need Help Finding Treatment for Addiction?

If you or someone you care about is struggling with drug addiction and needs help, please call our toll-free number now at 901-350-4575. Our admissions coordinators are standing by 24 hours a day in order to help you find a treatment program that will work for you. Get help now in overcoming your addiction. Call us today.


1 Florida Legislature. The Florida Statutes. Florida Mental Health Act. 1998.

2 The Crime Report Criminal Justice Network. Will More States Force Opioid Abusers to Get Help?
7 March 2018.