How to Have Someone Committed for Drug Abuse

Edited by Paul Alexander

Last updated June 23, 2020

Addiction is a complex disease that impacts nearly every aspect of a person’s life, as well as the lives of their close friends and family. It changes the way an individual acts, thinks, and responds to the world around them, which can cause ripples of negativity. Is someone dear to you struggling with drug addiction, substance abuse, or alcoholism? If so, we’re glad you’re here. 

Ideally, an addict will decide to go to rehab and begin addiction treatment on their own terms. But unfortunately, many are in denial about their substance abuse or are otherwise reluctant to get help. If you’re wondering how to have someone committed for drug abuse, Northbound Treatment is a rehabilitation center that can help you figure out your options. Here’s what you should know about involuntary commitment for drug abuse.

Involuntary Commitment for Drug Abuse

The detrimental impacts of substance abuse can’t be understated. You want the best for your loved one, and right now, that means finding a way to get them into rehab. Whether you’re looking to help your close friend, romantic partner, or family member get clean, we know your intentions come from a loving place.

Overcoming addiction is a pressing matter, and if it’s not promptly addressed, things will most likely continue to get worse. If you’ve already talked to this person about getting professional mental health and/or addiction support, you may have been met with denial or anger. 

You do have a few options for helping your friend or family member get sober. That said, if you’re leaning toward involuntary commitment for drug abuse, there are some legal aspects to consider.

How to Have Someone Under 18 Committed for Drug Abuse

Teens do not yet have fully developed brains, which means impulse control is usually harder for them than adults. Also, they lack the foresight to understand the long-term implications of substance abuse. Some parents are presented with the immensely difficult task of deciding whether to send their children to a treatment facility. You can take your child to rehab involuntarily if they’re under the age of 18.

Though you can legally admit your child to inpatient treatment rehab without their consent, it’s an extremely hard choice for many parents. If you decide to commit your teen, it may seem harsh, and they’ll likely respond with some backlash at first. And yet, if it’s a life or death situation, you may have no other choice. If treatment is a success, both parties usually feel like the decision was worth it in the end.

Committing Someone Over the Age of 18

If your child is no longer a minor, your options are a bit more limited, and the process of admitting them to rehab against their will is typically a lot harder. While laws vary from state to state, only official entities can order adults to be committed to a treatment center. Involuntary commitment for drug abuse can occur in one of two ways: a family’s petition for an emergency order or sentencing for criminal charges.

Family Petition

One course of action would be for an individual’s family to petition an emergency order from the court. In that case, the court would call on various experts to provide their opinions, such as psychiatric specialists and addiction counselors. The individual’s lack of control would also be brought into question, along with whether they’re reasonably able to make their own decisions and fulfill their basic needs — such as acquiring food and shelter or practicing hygiene.

Additionally, the court would review the nature of the addiction and if the person’s substance abuse has led to negative consequences. Evidence of any physical or psychological problems caused by addiction would be reviewed as well. Lastly, the court would examine whether the individual’s actions have threatened the safety or well-being of themselves or others.

As we mentioned, laws vary throughout the U.S. for emergency orders for drug abuse treatment. Be sure to review the regulations for your state and consult with a legal representative about moving forward.

Criminal Charges

The other method for involuntary commitment for drug abuse is through a court order based on an individual’s criminal charges relating to substance abuse. In this scenario, a judge might order rehab at a treatment center either instead of or in addition to jail, community service, or other sentencing.

How to Know If Committing Someone Is the Right Move

Staging an intervention can be effective in certain instances. Sometimes, the collective concern of close friends and family can bring someone to admit they have a problem. However, if a person is unwilling to accept help, the process is a lot more tricky. Addiction treatment works best when the individual decides they want to begin alcohol or drug rehab, and getting to that point can be a bumpy road.

Not only that, but depending on the type of substance abuse, it can be hard to determine how serious the problem is. For instance, if your close friend or partner is using heroin, cocaine, or another illegal drug, you can be confident it’s an urgent matter that calls rehab. On the other hand, alcohol abuse or using prescription medications present a gray area, as the substances are legal.

If you’re unsure about whether committing someone at a treatment facility is the right move, consider your answers to these questions:

  1. Have they had any uncharacteristic behavioral shifts or abnormal mood swings?
  2. Do they get defensive or angry when you try to talk to them about their drug use?
  3. Have they become secretive or withdrawn from friends and family?
  4. Have you found drug paraphernalia around their home or in their possession?
  5. Are they showing any physical signs of drug addiction, such as weight loss, poor hygiene, glassy or bloodshot eyes, excessive sweating, or shaking?
  6. Has there been a change in their eating or sleeping habits?
  7. Have they been struggling financially or performing poorly at work or school?
  8. Do they exhibit withdrawal symptoms when they go without drugs or alcohol?

If you answered yes to more than a couple of these questions, there’s a good chance your loved one is suffering from chemical dependence or drug addiction. They may or may not be aware of the severity of their substance abuse, but the best route to recovery is an inpatient rehab program. Although they may resist help, you won’t regret trying.

If you want to know “what is inpatient treatment?”, read our blog post on it for more insights.

What Not to Do

Even when an addict is willing to enter into a treatment program to detox, starting drug rehab can be uncomfortable. For this reason, knowing what to avoid when trying to commit someone for drug abuse can be helpful.

When attempting to commit someone to rehab involuntarily, try not to:

  • Yell or raise your voice in such a way that they feel attacked
  • Use vague language
  • Shame them for their behaviors or make them feel guilty
  • Let your emotions take over
  • Make assumptions
  • Enable the substance abuse further
  • Be impatient

The road to rehab is never easy, and you may feel like you’re in an impossible situation. That said, remaining calm and using a reasonable tone can be very beneficial in getting your point across. Also, while you should be clear about your belief that their substance abuse is a problem, we recommend approaching it from a place of understanding. If you acknowledge that addiction is a disease they can’t control, they may be more receptive.

Additionally, even though your emotions are probably running high, try to separate them from the conversation of getting your loved one into treatment. It’s OK to reiterate that you love them, but be clear that your goal is simply to get them the help they need. It’s also important to avoid making assumptions about why they began using or how they feel about their substance abuse. These issues can be addressed in rehab, and if they achieve sobriety, you’ll most likely have an opportunity to revisit the conversation.

It can be difficult to stop supporting this person financially or helping them in other ways. But remember that it can be counterproductive and send mixed messages if you’re trying to commit them. Lastly, try not to rush your loved one into addiction treatment. Your impatience can have an adverse effect on the process, and it’s best if they’re willing to go to rehab.

For more information on “what is outpatient rehab?”, visit our blog post today to learn everything you need to know.

Substance Abuse Treatment at Northbound

If someone close to you is suffering from substance abuse or addiction, we urge you to reach out to Northbound Treatment as soon as possible. We can help you navigate your options and support you and your loved one on the path to healing. We’re accepting new clients every day and would love to hear from you. Call us today to get started.

Article Reviewed by Paul Alexander

Paul AlexanderPaul Alexander is the founder and CEO of Northbound Treatment. He received his Certified Addiction Treatment Specialist training at Saddleback College in Mission Viejo, CA, and was awarded Outstanding Alumni Service Award in 2002. Paul holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Criminology, Law and Society, Summa Cum Laude, from University of California, Irvine, and a Juris Doctorate degree from Loyola Law School of Los Angeles. He believes wholeheartedly in transformational leadership, organizational health and effective, fully integrated substance use disorder treatment.

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