When faced with an addicted friend or loved one, those who want to help can find themselves at a difficult crossroads. How can you compel this person to get help without alienating him or her completely? This is especially challenging when the person has already caused themselves or others harm — such as the alcoholic who drives drunk or the opiate addict who has lost several jobs. The situations are as unique as the people involved, but for many addicts, even if they want to recover, they may not be ready to take the necessary steps to do so.
There is a common myth that coercing a person into addiction treatment results in poorer outcomes than those experienced by addicts who voluntarily enter rehab. This article discusses whether you can legally force a person to go to rehab and examines whether doing so affects the long-term recovery of the person.
Understanding the Law
If you have a family member or loved one who is reluctant to get help for an opiate, alcohol, or other drug addiction, the law is on your side. Ohio’s version of “Casey’s Law” was inspired by Kentucky and named after Matthew “Casey” Wethington, a Kenton County man who passed away from a heroin overdose in 2002 at just 23 years of age. Signed into effect by Governor John Kasich in 2012, the law allows parents, relatives, or friends of an addicted individual over the age of 18 to petition a court on their behalf to require them to receive mandatory drug treatment.
However, under Casey’s Law, it must be proven that the person presents an imminent threat to themselves or others on their continued path. This is often the case when the addicted person has shown a proven pattern of reckless or criminal behavior, such as stealing, assault charges, driving under the influence, etc.
Many Ohioans do not know about this law or are not able to pay the large bills that come with providing their loved ones with drug treatment. As a result, Casey’s Law is rarely used and as of 2016, no petitions had been filed in Sandusky County Court.
Effectiveness of Forced Treatment
If you are thinking about using Casey’s Law to help a loved one but are unsure of the ethics, it is important to understand that there is a difference between coercing and compelling someone into treatment and that in many states, it is 100 percent legal to force someone to detox and get clean. Up to 75 percent of people in drug treatment claim they are there because of some formal or informal pressure from people in their life. While forced treatment remains controversial, the National Institute on Drug Abuse maintains that treatment does not need to be voluntary to be effective. According to a landmark 2005 study, mandated treatment is just as effective as voluntary treatment for long-term addiction recovery.
One of the reasons forced or compelled treatment is effective is because of retention. The longer people stay in rehab, the less likely they are to relapse and the more likely they are to recover. For those whose substances issues are a severe risk, coercion can actually be a life-saving option.
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