Drug addiction (also called substance use disorder) is treatable. Unfortunately, some people with the condition refuse to seek treatment.
If your loved one is resisting treatment and you live in Massachusetts, you may be able to force them to attend an addiction rehab center.
This process is called “involuntary treatment.” Here’s what you should know about it.
Involuntary Treatment In Massachusetts
Massachusetts is one of 37 states with involuntary commitment laws (also called civil commitment laws).
These laws allow you to petition the court to order a family member to attend a treatment program for addiction or another mental health disorder. In Massachusetts, this law is known as Section 35.
How Do I Order Involuntary Treatment Under Section 35?
To request an involuntary treatment order under Section 35, you must be a qualified petitioner. That means you must be a blood relative, spouse, or guardian of the person you think should be committed. Other qualified petitioners include physicians, police officers, and court officials.
File A Written Petition
If you are a qualified petitioner, you can go to your local court and file a written petition for an order of commitment. The court will then examine your situation and determine if it should issue a summons or a warrant of apprehension.
If the court issues a summons, your loved one will be ordered to appear for a court hearing. If the court issues a warrant of apprehension, your loved one will be taken into police custody and transported to a court hearing.
The court will only issue a warrant of apprehension if it has reason to believe that your loved one will refuse to appear in court and that this refusal would pose an immediate physical danger to your loved one.
Before the court hearing, your loved one will be given the opportunity to hire a lawyer. If they can’t afford one, the court will appoint one.
What Happens At The Court Hearing?
At the hearing, the court will order a physician, psychologist, or social worker to examine your loved one. Your loved one can refuse this examination.
The court will then hear the evidence from the examination along with testimony from family, friends, or other relevant individuals.
Using this information, the court will determine whether your loved one meets the following criteria for involuntary treatment:
- They must have drug or alcohol addiction
- Their addiction must pose a risk of serious harm to themselves or others
If your loved one meets these criteria, the judge will order them to involuntary treatment.
What Type Of Treatment Will My Loved One Receive?
- medical detox, in which medical professionals will help your loved one slowly and safely stop using drugs
- mental health counseling, in which a behavioral health care provider will help your loved one manage drug cravings and any co-occurring mental illnesses
- medication-assisted treatment, in which doctors will prescribe medications to treat cravings and withdrawal symptoms associated with alcohol and opioid addiction
- support groups, in which your loved one can discuss coping strategies with other people who have struggled with drug use
Court-ordered drug treatment can last up to 90 days. If your loved one stops posing a risk of serious harm to themselves or others, the commitment order may end before 90 days. However, your loved one can choose to stay in the rehab center and continue treatment voluntarily.
Advantages & Disadvantages Of Involuntary Treatment
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, involuntary treatment can be just as effective as voluntary treatment. It can kickstart your loved one’s recovery and help them build a healthy, sober life.
However, some people don’t respond well to forced rehab.
According to a 2016 study by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, people who are forced to attend drug rehab programs are over 50% more likely to die of drug overdoses than people who enter treatment facilities on their own.
This is probably because many people won’t commit themselves to their substance abuse treatment plans if they feel forced to do so. That’s why you should only pursue involuntary rehab after trying to help your loved one in other ways.
For example, you could stage an intervention.
An intervention is a planned conversation in which you confront your loved one about their addiction and ask them to seek treatment. They work best when they involve a number of the person’s loved ones, along with therapists, addiction specialists, and professional interventionists.
If you or someone you love struggles with addiction, please reach out to a Recovering Champions specialist. Our addiction treatment center offers personalized, comprehensive care to help you or your loved one stay drug-free.