Can You Force Someone into Rehab?

Medically Reviewed by: Diana Vo, LMFT

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), over 20 million people in the United States meet the criteria for substance use disorder, but only around one in ten get the treatment they need.

If you have a family member grappling with substance abuse, you would probably do just about anything to get them the treatment they need, but can you force someone into rehab in California?

Can You Admit Someone to Rehab Against Their Will?

Can you check someone into rehab without their consent easily, then?

In a word, no.

Many states, including California, do not have legislation in place that would allow you to admit a family member into rehab without their consent. However, this does not mean hope is lost. Sometimes all it takes to get someone on board with going to rehab is a little push in the right direction.

Need help getting addiction treatment for your loved one?

If you need help convincing your loved one that they are in need of substance abuse treatment, one of the best things you can do is stage an intervention. But first, learn more about what to say and what not to say during an intervention.

Can You Force a Family Member Into Rehab?

To force someone into rehab against their will, it’s not enough to be concerned about their drug or alcohol intake, even if this is blatant and excessive.

In the case of minors, you will have more rights to commit your child to substance abuse treatment than you would with an adult.

In most states with involuntary commitment laws, you will need to prove the following in court:

  • That the person has substance use disorder or alcohol use disorder
  • That the person has already harmed themselves or others, or that they present a significant risk of doing so

In some cases, you may be able to show that the person is so addicted to substances that they are no longer able to provide for their needs.

an image of someone trying to help a family member into rehab

The person you feel needs treatment has the right to legal representation, including a court-appointed attorney if they do not have the financial means.

In all states with involuntary commitment laws, the individual committed can petition for a habeas corpus writ at any stage after being committed. The purpose of this writ is to have a court establish whether the person has been legally detained. If not the individual will be released from treatment commitments.

People committed to involuntary addiction treatment are typically treated for two weeks. If the program administrator feels they are in a position to care for themselves, they can be released to an outpatient facility. If they fail to comply with outpatient treatment, they can be committed to inpatient treatment again.


Our compassionate team is one call away. Here to help every step of the way.

Getting Help in California from Renaissance Recovery

If you live in California, and you want to take advantage of California 5150 to initiate a mental health assessment for a loved one abusing drink or drugs, you may be questioning whether forcing someone into rehab works.

Unfortunately, there is still not much hard data to chew on here. SAMHSA reports from 2016, though, show that as many as one in three of all patients admitted for addiction treatment from 2004 through 2014 were admitted via compulsory court-ordered programs. These patients typically have no more interest in seeking addiction treatment than someone involuntarily committed by family. In spite of this, the same data shows that treatment outcomes were not significantly different, regardless of whether the individual entered rehab voluntarily or not.

Beyond this, NIDA suggests that those coerced into treatment for substance abuse often stay in treatment for longer, with equally positive and sometimes more favorable outcomes than those who attended treatment voluntarily.

Now, in the ideal scenario, you will manage to break through any denial, get your loved one to admit they have a problem, and then concede to following through with treatment. In some cases, this may occur organically, and in others, you may need a formal intervention.

Addiction is a disease that leads to changes in the function and structure of the brain, leading to loss of control and making poor choices. This means that even if it seems abundantly clear your loved one needs treatment, they may not see it that way.

If so and if you need to proceed with legal action to get them the help they need, we hope today’s snapshot of involuntary commitment for addiction treatment has given you hope.

For anyone able to convince their loved one of the need to engage with professional treatment, here at Renaissance Recovery we specialize in the outpatient treatment of alcohol use disorder and substance use disorder.

For anyone struggling with addiction and a co-occurring mental health disorder, our dual diagnosis treatment program attacks both these issues simultaneously.

Anyone requiring more structure and support than a traditional outpatient program offers may find out IOP (intensive outpatient program) or PHP (partial hospitalization program) more beneficial.

Through a combination of medication-assisted treatment, psychotherapy, counseling, and holistic therapy, we’ll help your loved one build a firm foundation for sustained sobriety. Find out more by calling 866.330.9449 today.


Our compassionate team is one call away. Here to help every step of the way.

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At Renaissance Recovery our goal is to provide evidence-based treatment to as many individuals as possible. Give us a call today to verify your insurance coverage or to learn more about paying for addiction treatment.

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Joseph Gilmore has been in the addiction industry for three years with experience working for facilities all across the country. Connect with Joe on LinkedIn.

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