Can You Force Someone Into Rehab?

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Medically Reviewed By: Diana Vo, LMFT

September 12, 2023

Table of Contents

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.

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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.

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. If you are wondering, “can you make someone go to rehab?”, there are other alternatives to help your loved one recover from addiction. 

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 rehab 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.

What Is The Process for Involuntary Commitment?

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 wondering, “can you force someone into rehab”. California is home to our Renaissance Recovery treatment centers, where we offer evidence-based, compassionate care for those struggling with addiction. 

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 rehab commitment for addiction treatment has given you hope.

Criteria for Involuntary Commitment

There are many states where you can legally force someone to go to rehab for substance use disorder, provided that it’s in their best interest and they meet the criteria. 

If you think your loved one is in need of intervention but won’t get the help they need themselves, here is what you’ll need to prove in order to get them help:

  • If they are a threat to themselves or others
  • If their addiction has rendered them disabled physically or mentally. 
  • If the person is consistently incapable of making decisions for themselves because of their substance use. 
  • If they are neglecting their personal affairs or basic needs. 
  • If they’ve lost control over their life. 

These requirements can be interpreted in various ways, so it’s important that you first seek out the help of a lawyer. If cost is an issue, pro bono lawyers can sometimes help. 


States With Involuntary Commitment Laws 

If you’ve found that your loved one has met the criteria for having someone committed, it’s now time to determine if you live in a state that allows involuntary commitment. 

States where involuntary commitment for substance abuse is legal include:

  • California
  • Washington
  • Alaska
  • Hawaii
  • Montana
  • North Dakota
  • South Dakota
  • Colorado
  • Nebraska
  • Kansas
  • Oklahoma
  • Texas
  • Minnesota
  • Iowa
  • Missouri
  • Delaware
  • Louisiana
  • Arkansas
  • Mississippi
  • Michigan
  • Wisconsin
  • Indiana
  • Kentucky
  • Tennessee
  • Ohio
  • West Virginia
  • Pennsylvania
  • Virginia
  • North Carolina
  • South Carolina
  • Georgia
  • Florida
  • District of Columbia
  • Connecticut
  • Vermont
  • Maine
  • Massachusetts
  • Rhode Island

Keep in mind that your loved one has the right to an attorney as well, and will be present in court when you petition the state to commit them. This can be a long process but worth it if it saves their life in the long run. 

image of people staging an intervention vs. involuntary commitment

Intervention vs. Involuntary Commitment

Even if you’ve found that your loved one meets all of the criteria and lives in a state where involuntary commitment is legal, it’s still a difficult process that can damage your relationship with your loved one and can have several downsides. 

Because of this, involuntary commitment should only be used as a last resort. Thankfully, staging an intervention can provide a safe, voluntary, and effective way to get your loved one help without having to force them to go to rehab.

When staging an intervention, you can either choose to:

  • Stage an intervention independently
  • Or work with a professional intervention program

While doing your own research and staging the intervention on your own can be effective at times, the likelihood of your loved one agreeing to getting help is significantly higher with the help of a professional interventionist. 

The benefits of a voluntary intervention vs. an involuntary commitment include:

  • Allows your loved one the autonomy to choose for themselves
  • Your loved one will be much more motivated if they choose this for themselves
  • There is a lower risk of relapse
  • Your loved one will be engaged in ongoing support from you and other loved ones, vs. the potential fallout that can come from involuntary commitment


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

Get Help Staging an Intervention at Renaissance Recovery

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

Our team of addiction recovery experts will help guide you in providing an intervention for your loved one in an effective, safe, and compassionate way. 

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. If you want to find out more about how we can help you get your loved one into rehab, call us at 866.330.9449 today.



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.

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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