Drug and alcohol addiction and the related substance misuse is a huge problem in the UK, not only for the individual involved but often for their families and loved ones, communities, workplaces and society as a whole.
Addiction is a huge factor in many areas of criminal activity as well as ill-health, disability and early death. Alcohol-related harm alone is estimated to cost the NHS in England £3.5 billion every year.1
Get FREE Confidential Advice Regarding Addiction
Speak to us for FREE and confidential advice regarding drug and alcohol problems, whether its you or a family member/friend. You are not alone.GET IN TOUCH TODAY
Rehab for drug or alcohol addiction involves the delivery of a tailored programme of treatments that aim to address every aspect of the addiction, from physical dependency to psychological issues, negative patterns of thinking and behaviours associated with the drinking or drug use.
It is considered to be the most effective way of treating a serious addiction problem. Given the individual harms and social issues caused by addiction, some people believe that forced rehab should be an option. The issue of whether a person can be forced into rehab and whether they should be forced into rehab is not always straightforward, however.
Can I Be Forced into Rehab in the UK?
If you are an adult in the UK, you cannot be forced to go to rehab for an addiction, even if it appears to be in your own best interests.
It is possible for someone with a serious mental health issue to be ‘sectioned’, generally if they are considered to be a danger to themselves or others. Addiction and mental health problems do often go hand in hand. This means a person with an addiction may be involuntarily detained for treatment and addiction treatment may be included in that. It would be extremely unlikely that the addiction would be the primary cause for sectioning, however.
Another possibility is that a court recommends drug or alcohol treatment during a trial. It could be the case that the person on trial is offered a more lenient sentence as long as they commit to undergoing the treatment programme. They would still not be forced to accept the offer, however. In such cases, the drug or alcohol treatment offered is usually provided on a community-based or outpatient basis, whereas most people think of residential treatment when they think of rehab.
Can I Leave Rehab if I Go and Don’t Like it?
If you do go to rehab voluntarily, you will be under no obligation to complete the course of treatment. If you leave early though, you are far more likely to relapse back into drinking or drug use, with all the risks and negative consequences that can bring.
If you were in the rare position of attending rehab after attending court, failing to complete the course could also lead to a harsher sentence kicking in and you spending a longer time in prison.
Laws in Other Countries – When Could You Be Forced into Rehab?
Some countries do provide the option for authorities to force an individual into a drug or alcohol treatment programme, which may involve residential rehab, against their will. In the US, for example, a number of states have statutes in place allowing for the ‘involuntary commitment’ of individuals suffering from an addiction. According to non-profit campaign group the Partnership to End Addiction, there are strict guidelines on who can be committed in this way and when.
Firstly, it must be shown that there is an addiction. There will also generally need to be evidence that they have physically harmed themselves or others, have threatened to do so or will do so if not detained. Alternatively, it may be demonstrated that they are so incapacitated by drugs or alcohol that they cannot provide for basic needs such as food, shelter and clothing, with no suitable adult willing and able to provide for such needs.
In states with an involuntary commitment law, the person who is looking to be committed has the right to an attorney or an appointed attorney if they cannot afford one, to represent them at every stage of the proceedings. There are also limitations in how long a person can be detained before having a hearing, which may run from 48 hours to several days.2
As with the UK, court-mandated rehab programmes may also be imposed in lieu of other sentences where addiction and/or substance misuse is deemed to have played a part in the crime.
Does Forced Rehab Actually Work?
An important question is whether forced drug treatment actually works. Discussions around this subject can be more political than scientific, with research on the efficacy of such programmes being patchy and often conflicting.
“There appears to be as much evidence that [compulsory treatment] is ineffective, or in fact harmful, as there is evidence that it is effective,” said Dan Werb, PhD, the author of a review of the subject and an epidemiologist and policy analyst at the University of California at San Diego (UCSD). Many studies in the review were of programmes outside the USA , some of which were “rife with human rights violations”.3
Talking to a Loved One About Their Addiction
As you cannot generally be forced into rehab in the UK, there may come a time when you need to try to persuade a loved one that this is the best course of action. Because rehabilitation for drug and alcohol addiction involves taking part in various types of therapy, it is far more likely to be successful if you participate honestly and openly. This also means it is generally best if the person can be persuaded to go willingly rather than through ultimatums or emotional blackmail.
One way of helping an addict to face up to the impact their behaviour is having on those around them is holding an intervention. This allows loved ones to say, in their own words, how the person’s drinking or drug use is affecting them. It is important to plan such an event carefully and carry it out in a calm and structured way. It’s easy for an intervention to get heated, so it’s often best to have an experienced addiction recovery professional or therapist leading the process.
If you need help talking to a loved one about their addiction, or any other confidential advice, contact us today to find out how we can help.