Every once in a while someone asks me the question: “Can you force an alcoholic into treatment?” Then they usually say “because it seems like you should be able to!”
The answer is yes and no. Actually, it depends on what State you live in.
I am not about to break it down into all 50 states here. I’ll just say that, based on my experience, I know that in Michigan, you can NOT force an alcoholic into treatment. The best you could do would be to commit them if they were threatening either suicide or homicide.
I also know, based on my experience, that in the state of Florida, you actually can force an alcoholic into treatment. I believe it is a similar process to committing someone for psychiatric help.
So there you have it: it all depends on where you live.
So if you want to know for sure, the easiest way to find out would be to call your local treatment center or drug rehab. Call them up and ask them what the law is in your state. They deal with it every single day so they will know for sure whether or not you can commit someone to treatment for substance abuse.
But the real question you should ask is this: “Should you force an alcoholic into treatment?”
Because the bottom line is that no one is going to go kicking and screaming into rehab and then come out of it a perfect angel. No one is going to be forced into submission and then suddenly have a change of heart and be cured of alcoholism overnight. It just doesn’t work that way.
If anything, the whole idea of forcing someone into treatment, forcing them to get sober all of a sudden, forcing them to face their biggest fear head on and face reality without self medicating…..that is just going to open things up for a huge resentment. If anything, this will be fuel for the fire so to speak. It will be a great excuse to get thoroughly trashed once they are able to drink again.
It is so hard to deal with an alcoholic who is out of control and refuses to get help. You are walking a fine line between encouraging them to get help, and trying to back off enough so that they do not resent you for constantly nagging them. It is not a good situation no matter what you do or how you choose to handle it, so give yourself a break. If you want to scream at them that they need to change their life, go right ahead. Maybe they need to hear it.
Not much gets through to a drunk. But if you back them in a corner and force them into treatment, you probably will not get the results you want. You might think by forcing them into treatment “this will show him…” but in reality this might just drive them further away from you and deeper into resentment…..