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Is Forced Addiction Treatment a Good Idea?

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Seeing a loved one in the throes of addiction can be a heart-wrenching experience, spurring feelings of helplessness and hopelessness. Sadly, according to a study by the American Psychiatric Association, only 10 percent of addicts ever seek professional treatment.

The Trickle Down Effect

Not only does addiction affect the individual; it affects everyone involved. When coercion, pleading, “tough love” and ultimatums fail, what options are left? When it’s a matter of life and death, at what point do loved ones deserve the legal and moral authority to assume absolute control?

Some feel that legally forcing someone into a drug rehabilitation clinic is a viable option. Of course, this is a subject of intense and ongoing debate. In fact, the concept of forced addiction rehabilitation sparks controversy from legal, ethical and medical points of view.

Exercising Your Rights

Although 38 states currently have some form of a law that allows addiction-associated commitment, the laws are tricky and tend to vary tremendously.

Florida’s Marchman Act, for example, allows spouses, relatives or three people who have direct contact with an addict to petition for forced rehab. However, they must prove the individual is a danger to themselves or others due to their addiction.

Although many states are now trying to enact similar laws, opponents contend that forcing someone to get treatment impedes on civil rights and is more punitive than helpful. It should be noted that forced rehab already exists in the form of court orders and roughly 50 percent of individuals in treatment for illegal drugs are legally mandated or coerced to do so.

But what about those who are not in trouble with the law or those whose addiction can lead to greater consequences?

Both Sides of the Argument

Forced rehab is also debated on another front: effectiveness. Here’s a look at both sides of the argument:

Nay Sayers: Opponents cite that 12-Step models hinge on the addict admitting they have a problem, therefore forcing someone to rehab nullifies that condition for recovery. They also contend that forced treatment will lead to combativeness, resentment, ongoing denial and ultimate failure in sobriety. In other words, you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make them receptive to addiction treatment.

Supporters: Those who favor forced addiction treatment claim that the resulting detoxification may allow the “window of clarity” necessary for an addict to better understand their situation. Studies also the difference in success rates between voluntary treatment and forced rehabilitation, court-ordered or otherwise, is negligible.

So, what we’re left to sort out is whether or not forced rehab is a violation of individual rights? Community safety? Legal overstepping? What’s your opinion?

Additional Reading: Former Addicts Have Lower Risk of Developing New Addictions


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