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Can You Legally Force Rehab In Massachusetts?

by Landmark Recovery

February 18, 2021
can you legally make someone to rehab in massachusetts

Can You Legally Force Rehab In Massachusetts?

When a loved one is battling addiction, they seem to self-destruct. Then the family is left helpless, watching as the ordeal unfolds. Addiction can make families feel powerless.

An addicted family member would accept that they have an addiction and voluntarily get treatment, if things were simple. Unfortunately, many families have to stage interventions to confront their family members with the issue. All too often this ends badly. An intervention situation is typically filled with lies, yelling, denial, excuses, and more.

You might be wondering what options you have at your disposal if you have a loved is addicted. We are here to help. Read on to learn what you can do when all else has failed.


Involuntary Rehab Commitment

Nearly 24 million Americans live with substance abuse disorders and need help, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). Unfortunately, the same report shows that only 11% (about 2.6 million) of people get help for their addictions.

There are a variety of reasons people don’t receive the treatment they need. One of these reasons is that the person living with addiction doesn’t think they need help.

When someone faces addiction, they tend to become single-minded. The American Psychiatry Association explains that people who are addicted to substances will compulsively use them regardless of the consequences.

Addiction is not a character flaw, but a very real disease that can impact all facets of a person’s life. Addiction alters the brain. Dr. Roger Watts reasons that addiction results in people losing their willpower and their ability to make decisions. It causes them to be in denial and extremely defensive about their situation. Many addicts will not be able to independently seek treatment for their substance use disorders.

Several states have passed laws that allow for an addict to be involuntarily sent to rehab for these reasons.

The Laws

One law for forced rehab is in place in Kentucky, and it is well-known as Casey’s Law. This law allows an addict’s family members to have a loved one committed to rehab against their will. When a young man in Kentucky passed away as a result of his heroin addiction, his mother pushed for legislation that would allow other families to save their loved ones before it’s too late.

Other states are considering similar legislation because of the growing opioid epidemic and other addiction-related problems. For example, until recently, Pennsylvania allowed involuntary rehab for addiction to drugs and alcohol only if the person was mentally ill. The proposed legislation will allow concerned family members to petition their county for involuntary commitment to rehab.

Currently, 37 out of 50 states allow for some form of involuntary rehab for those who are living with an addiction to drugs or alcohol. While many states allow for involuntary commitment to rehab, most have a lengthy list of requirements that must be met.

Benefits and Drawbacks Of Involuntary Rehab Treatment

We know that rehab is beneficial for anyone facing addiction regardless of how they wound up in our care. Involuntary rehab might not be the best option. We’ll explore some of the benefits and drawbacks of this decision next.


One of the biggest benefits of involuntary rehab is the chance to help a loved one get better before they are detrimentally impacted by their addiction.

Their addiction to drugs or alcohol could result in life-altering consequences, or even death if a loved one is left to their own devices.

A lot of people think that if rehab is forced, it is useless. Research shows the opposite to be true in many cases. The UCLA Drug Abuse Research Center found that even when rehab was coerced or ordered by a court, it can still be effective. In fact, many people who find themselves at the mercy of court-ordered rehab make full recoveries.


Despite the benefits, involuntary rehab is not always the right answer for an addicted loved one, no matter how helpless the family may feel.

As research continually shows, addiction is a disease. While the original intent of getting high or drunk might have been to feel momentary pleasure, by the time a person is in the throes of addiction all the pleasure is gone. Eventually, addiction becomes entirely about not feeling the pain of withdrawal rather than experiencing a good time.

While having a loved one involuntarily committed to rehab might seem like a choice borne from love, they likely won’t feel that way. When considering the feelings of those who have been forced into involuntary psychiatric treatment, researchers found that there was an overwhelming feeling of abandonment and resentment toward the coercive family members.

Research shows that when an addict is personally motivated and ready to commit to rehab, the treatments will be much more effective.

Can You Legally Force Rehab In Massachusetts?

A person can be involuntarily committed to treatment for addiction under Section 35 of Massachusetts General Law.

A spouse, doctor, police officer, blood relative, court official, or guardian can petition for a court to commit someone to treatment.

The court will determine if the petition is reasonable and will order a medical examination of the person.

The physician can rule that involuntary commitment is the solution, if they determine that addiction treatment is warranted upon examination. The judge also has to believe there is a likelihood of serious harm.

Not every petition is granted, though. In 2018, out of 10,770 petitions, only 5,716 people were involuntarily committed to treatment.

What Comes Next?

We have many rehab programs and extensive experience in treating addiction and substance use disorders at Landmark Recovery of Boston.

Contact us today at 888-448-0302 to learn more about what options are available to you if a loved one is facing addiction.

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About the Author

Landmark Recovery

Landmark Recovery

Landmark Recovery was founded with a determination to make addiction treatment accessible for all. Through our integrated treatment programs, we've helped thousands of people choose recovery over addiction and get back to life on their own terms. We're on a mission to save one million lives over the next century. We encourage all those struggling with substance use to seek professional help.