Blog | Addiction Warning Signs

Is Involuntary Commitment to Addiction Treatment the Answer to Chronic Addiction?

Current information about drug addiction in the United States is absolutely mind-boggling. For example, from 2000 to 2015 more than half a million people died from drug overdoses. 91 Americans die every day from an opioid overdose.[1]

This out-of-control problem has many families at their wit’s end. How can you treat this serious problem when a family member is addicted? Not only the drug user is affected by their addiction. Other family members face emotional distress, the development of physical ailments, time lost and financial burdens.

Many families live with the constant threat of early death due to addiction. It is normal for loved ones to find themselves desperately trying to get the addicted individual into treatment.  While treatment may seem like a no-brainer to most people looking in from the outside, getting someone who either doesn’t believe they have a problem—or doesn’t want help—into rehab is difficult. The laws surrounding involuntary substance abuse treatment vary widely from state to state, and it’s a subject of ongoing debate.

Scientific Evidence About Addiction

Young couple arguing

There is a variety of research underway around the US relating to addiction. The results of many of these studies show the pathways in the brain necessary to help make positive decisions for one’s health and well-being are the same neural networks disrupted by addiction.[2] Substance abuse changes the cognitive abilities related to willpower, impulse control, and decision-making.

This knowledge about the addiction process may change the laws associated with involuntary admission to rehab centers which would give families a new option to help their loved ones. In many cases, the addict is under the influence of drugs so he or she is not able to think clearly.

Laws Surrounding Involuntary Drug Treatment

Each state in the U.S. has its own set of laws concerning involuntary admission to drug and alcohol treatment programs.[3] States that allow for involuntary admission into treatment have laws that often have unclear guidelines.As a result, the laws are open to the interpretation of the judge for each case.

Examples of these laws include:

  • When an individual poses a serious danger to oneself, others or property
  • An individual has impaired their decision-making abilities

These types of criteria are unclear and very subjective. As a result, these conditions can be very difficult to prove in many cases.Your financial situation could be a factor as well when paying for a lawyer. For many, their financial situation will be poor as drug addicts often steal from family members or you may have to take time off work to care for the addicted family member. Luckily, some positive changes are happening in a handful of states. In recent months, three states – Ohio, Pennsylvania and Massachusetts – have made moves to pass new bills that allow for better options for involuntary commitment to drug and alcohol rehab. These laws may influence other states to follow suit.

Do you think involuntary commitment to rehab should be made easier, or do you think the laws are difficult to protect an individual’s rights? Please share your opinion with us below.


[1] Understanding The Epidemic.

[2]  Drugs, Brains and Behavior: The Science of Addiction.

[3]  Several States Have Laws Allowing Involuntary Addiction Treatment.