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Can a Rehab Center Keep You Against Your Will?

by Demarco Moore

July 19, 2023
a woman feels trapped and held against her will during court ordered rehab for addiction

Unless required by law or court-ordered, alcohol and drug rehab centers can’t force you to stay. Rehab is a voluntary journey towards freedom from addiction, designed to help people overcome strong urges to drink alcohol or use drugs. There are exceptions based on state laws and court orders, but rehab’s top priority is to empower you, not to hold you against your will.

Key points in this blog:

  • Rehab centers usually can’t keep people against their will in most cases.
  • Courts or state laws can force people into rehab against their will.
  • Some states allow forced rehab if a person’s addiction poses a serious risk to themselves or others.
  • While not recommended, people can leave rehab early.
  • Despite fears about losing freedom, rehab is about reclaiming control over your life and breaking free from addiction.

Understanding Rehab: Voluntary vs. Involuntary Addiction Treatment

When someone realizes they’re struggling with alcohol or drug addiction, entering rehab is usually voluntary; they admit they have a problem and seek help. But it’s not always that straightforward. People may undergo involuntary treatment in certain situations, mandated by addiction treatment-related state laws or court orders.

It’s important to note that these situations aren’t the norm, and each has conditions and limitations. Ultimately, rehab centers aim to provide a supportive environment for addiction recovery, not a place of confinement or imprisonment.

State Laws on Involuntary Substance Abuse Treatment

In some parts of the U.S., laws exist that could allow a person with a serious addiction to be treated for their condition, even if they don’t want to. These are called involuntary treatment laws. According to the Prescription Drug Abuse Policy System (PDAPS), about 37 states have these laws. They allow rehab centers to hold and treat people if their addiction makes them dangerous to themselves or others.

The details of these laws can be different in each state. In some places, if a person’s addiction is causing serious harm, family members or doctors can ask a judge to order treatment. However, it’s important to note these laws are meant to help people in extreme situations. They’re not used to force people into treatment if they don’t want to go.

To learn more about this, check out our blog post, “States With Mandatory Addiction Treatment.” It explains these laws in more detail.

These are complex topics, and it can be hard to understand everything. At Landmark Recovery, we’re here to help. If you’re uncertain about involuntary treatment laws in your state or need any other information about addiction treatment,  call one of our Patient Navigators today at 888-448-0302

Court-Ordered Rehab: When Treatment Isn’t a Personal Choice

Sometimes, deciding to stay in rehab isn’t your decision but a judge’s. When addiction-related behaviors result in legal issues, a court can order rehab as part of your sentencing. This means the rehab center is legally required to treat your addiction even if you resist.

This might feel like being kept in rehab against your will, but it’s not a punishment. It’s all about you a chance to recover in a safe and supportive environment. If you’re in this situation or know someone who is, learning about court-ordered rehab can be helpful. 

Our article “What is Court-Ordered Rehab?” explains more about this.

Can You Leave Rehab Early?

If you’ve chosen to enter rehab or have been required to, you might wonder if you can leave early. The short answer is, normally, yes, you can. However, this decision is often discouraged and can increase the risk of relapse, or falling back into substance use habits.

Why You Shouldn’t Leave Early

Katherine Connell, who previously served as executive director at Landmark Recovery of Las Vegas, shared her take on leaving early.

“What I have seen happen is patients leave our program, and it gets worse for them,” she said. “They lose that job. They get kicked out of the house – sometimes because they left treatment early. I’ve never seen anything good happen from someone leaving treatment early.”

Our blog post on “Leaving Rehab Against Medical Advice” provides a more in-depth exploration of this topic. Staying in rehab isn’t about keeping you against your will. It’s about getting you the help and support needed to overcome addiction.

Exploring Addiction Treatment Options at Landmark Recovery

Choosing to enter rehab or helping a loved one make that decision is significant. It’s a commitment to health, happiness, and a better future. While the path may be challenging, remember that you’re not alone. Help is available, and recovery is possible.

Take the First Step Towards Recovery Today

At Landmark Recovery, we understand the challenges of overcoming addiction. We offer various treatment programs, including:

Our goal is to provide the support and care you need on your journey to recovery. Call our confidential admissions line at 888-448-0302 to speak directly with a Patient Navigator. They’ll provide guidance, answer your questions, and help you take steps toward a healthier, brighter future.

Related Stories

Knowledge is power in the fight against addiction. The more you know, the better equipped you are to make informed treatment decisions. Here are some additional resources to help you understand more about rehab:

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About the Author

Demarco Moore

Demarco Moore

A graduate of Middle Tennessee State University, Demarco Moore currently writes blogs about drug addiction treatment and recovery to help save lives at treatment provider Landmark Recovery. Before that, he cut his teeth as a sports writer at the Manchester Times, where his coverage and stories won Tennessee Press Association awards in 2016 and 2017.

He’s always had a knack for storytelling. Moore’s written content for junior golf tournaments and helped to amplify the “People Not Profits” message of credit unions. When he’s not writing, Moore loves to travel, laugh and put his mental health into the hands of the Tennessee Titans during football season.