Should Addiction Treatment be Forced?

Couple sitting on the couch and thinking about problem.

The subject of drug and alcohol addiction is a pretty tense and all around stressful subject. Because of the various dramas and difficulties surrounding drug and alcohol addiction, it seems like a lot of people don’t really want to broach this subject. In a way, this absolutely makes sense. For one, drug and alcohol addiction is not that well understood. For another, when one struggles with an addiction, it tends to be a crippling and devastating problem of which it feels like there is no remedy or workable solution.

It is a well-known fact that the best way to overcome drug and alcohol addiction is with the help of an addiction treatment program or recovery organization of some kind. Such programs have the tools and the effective counseling methodologies and detoxification facilities necessary to help someone come down off of an addiction habit. There are thousands of drug and alcohol rehab centers all across the country, and addiction treatment facilities contribute to hundreds of thousands of drug addicts and alcoholics overcoming their addiction habits every year.

But the problem is, a lot of times drug addicts and alcoholics do not want to get help. In fact, one could say that more often than not, a drug user or an alcoholic will be quite unwilling to receive treatment for their addiction habit, even if they are approached with an opportunity to do so. This leaves the family members and loved ones of those addicts wondering if it is right or morally okay to force someone into a drug rehab.

The family members and loved ones of drug addicts and alcoholics often feel like their backs are against the wall, and they are in quite the lose-lose scenario where their addicted loved one will probably die if they do not get help. But at the same time, their addicted love one also refuses to get that very help that will save their lives. So what does the family do? Is it okay to force someone into rehab?

Differing Viewpoints on the Matter

Just like with anything else that is tense and difficult in life, different people have different viewpoints on the subject of drug and alcohol addiction and the value of addiction treatment. Some believe that forcing someone into a drug and alcohol rehab is okay, and some don’t. Let’s take a look at both of these perspectives, and let’s examine the reasoning behind each viewpoint.

Some people think it is okay to force addiction rehabilitation on an addict. They say it is for their own good, which is absolutely true. Or they say that “Something is better than nothing,” and that even if the person is unwilling to go to rehab, they will probably warm up to the idea once they are actually there in the treatment center.

On the other end of the spectrum, there are those individuals who believe strongly that addiction treatment only works if the individual is willing to avail themselves of such treatment. They believe that addiction treatment, for it to be successful, requires a combination of the person’s full willingness, their dedication and engagement in the program, and the skill, knowledge, and efficiency of the program and staff.

Why Willingness is Key in Addiction Recovery

Holding hands trying to help.

As much as we want to help our loved ones and to ensure that they overcome their addiction habits, we really need to ensure that they are actually willing to get the help in the first place. This may make us a little bit miserable because a lot of times it feels like they’re never going to be willing to get help. Thankfully, there are some key actions that the family members and loved ones of addicts can take to ensure that their loved ones do indeed become willing to get help:

  • Intervention is the first effort that comes to mind. The technology of intervention is a very powerful series of methodologies and approaches that are used to convince an individual who does not want to get help to change their mind and decide that they absolutely do need to get help. Interventions are best performed with the help of an expert, to ensure success. When people try to do this on their own, they can be successful, but their results are not guaranteed.
  • Another successful action is the tough love approach. Tough love might be poorly named too, as it does not actually involve love that is tough. Mostly, this simply means not enabling the addict. When the family members and loved ones enable an addict by giving them money, a phone, a place to stay, some food, the family car, and any other methods of support like that, they make the addict’s life easier and essentially prevent them from coming to the realization that they actually do need to get help.
  • The family members and loved ones need to still maintain their connection with the addicted individual and they still need to love them and communicate to them and insist that they get help, but they can’t actually physically help the individual or make their lives easier in any way. If they do, this will just make it easier for the person to keep using drugs and alcohol, and it will ultimately prevent that person from coming to the realization that they really do need to get help for their addiction.
  • Yet another successful action is to support activities that lead to recovery and sobriety. When one’s addicted loved one makes an effort towards sobriety, say by talking about rehab, showing interest in rehab, going to see a support network member or a counselor, showing interest in getting off of drugs, giving up their meds for holistic and natural alternatives, etc. these are all efforts that should be strongly supported. Giving up drugs and alcohol is not always a black and white, instantaneous process where one is a drug addict one day and then in rehab getting clean the next day. A lot of times, this takes time and is a more gradual occurrence. Family members and loved ones of addicts should watch for these changes, and be ready to capitalize on them and support them.

Addiction treatment is a two-way street. Even the best addiction treatment centers can’t produce a sober individual unless the individual wants to get sober in the first place.

It is safe to say that, while it is not necessarily okay to force addiction treatment on individual, as their willingness is key in the endeavor of overcoming a substance abuse habit, it is however safe to say that there are many approaches and techniques that the family members and loved ones of addicts can use to get their loved one the help they need.




After working in addiction treatment for several years, Ren now travels the country, studying drug trends and writing about addiction in our society. Ren is focused on using his skill as an author and counselor to promote recovery and effective solutions to the drug crisis. Connect with Ren on LinkedIn.