Does Forcing Someone Into Rehab Actually Work?

Gavel with plaque saying DUI

There are many roads to expert drug rehab programs. Some sufferers of substance use disorders hit “rock bottom” and choose to enter independently. Others find themselves in drug rehab programs through the urging of close friends and family. There are even circumstances in which law enforcement is involved and those battling substance misuse enter drug rehab through the judicial system.

The question remains, does the manner by which a person with a substance use disorder enters drug rehab affect the efficacy of drug rehab itself? Does convincing someone to go to rehab actually work versus that person choosing to go of their own accord?

There are reports finding over seventy-five percent of people who have entered a professional drug rehab program entered from a sense of pressure, whether formally or informally. It is important to keep in mind that the substance use disorder in itself creates a sense of self-denial that would make any help feel forced in some manner; such is the delusion of substance misuse. Thus, this percentage is not unreasonable in volume. The important numbers to review are on the success of treatment once entered, by any means.

What the Numbers Reveal

study conducted in 2015 found that forced, or coerced, treatment was no less effective in handling substance use disorders than any other treatment. Another study finds that treatment entered upon through coercion is actually more effective in retaining sobriety than any other treatment. This could be due to extended commitment times which allow a person more time to truly work on the therapeutic techniques of drug rehab.

Woman and man talking

For example, if someone is placed in a drug rehab program through the court system as part of a sentence, he or she has a mandatory timeframe to complete that program. This allows that person more time to reflect on his or her mistakes, repair relationships, build a new healthy foundation, and learn to combat negative cravings. This sets the person up for better odds of success in outpatient treatment and beyond.

The idea that treatment through coercion, or compelling a person to enter drug rehab, is a positive force is transcending sheer conjecture and becoming part of public policy. In fact, it is legal in thirty-seven states and the District of Columbia to enroll children against their will in addiction treatment. This involuntary commitment system is to help make a change in the life of a young person struggling with substance misuse while there is still the power of coercion over them without the need for law enforcement.

Woman being offered a hand

When entered into and completed properly, expert and professional drug rehab programs work. Far too often, the person suffering from the substance use disorder is beyond their own cognizance to truly volunteer themselves to the process of enrolling in drug rehab programs.

Washington State addiction treatment resources are available to those who have entered drug rehab programs and those closest to them to help throughout the entire process. You are never alone, whether you have chosen this path for yourself or not. If you or any of your loved ones are battling a substance use disorder or would like more information on anything related to the treatment of addiction, you can contact us confidentially at any time.

Szalavitz, Maia, “Should States Let Families Force Addicts Into Rehab?” TIME, October 3, 2012. Accessed October 2, 2019.

National Institute on Drug Abuse. “What to Do If Your Adult Friend or Loved One Has a Problem with Drugs.” Revised September 2019. Accessed October 2, 2019.

Medical Disclaimer: The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider.