Laws About Involuntary Commitment for Substance Abuse Vary Widely Among States

Laws regarding involuntary commitment for substance abuse vary widely among states, according to a study presented at the American Psychiatric Association meeting this week.

Medscape Medical News reports that the study found 38 states allow some form of involuntary substance abuse treatment that is separate from any kind of criminal issues. Debra A. Pinals, MD, Associate Professor of Psychiatry in the Law and Psychiatry Program at the University of Massachusetts Medical School in Worcester, said that the length of time in which a person can be involuntarily forced into treatment varies widely among states. Criteria for involuntary commitment vary as well. While some states require dangerousness to self or grave disability, others require a combination of criteria, Dr. Pinals said.

The study found that less than 10% of patients with substance use disorders seek treatment. Most who seek treatment do so because of external, coercive influences, she said.

Dr. Pinals found that police pickup, emergency hospitalization and civil commitment were the three forms of involuntary treatment most used by the states with legal statutes regarding involuntary commitment for substance abuse. All but four states (Alabama, Wyoming, Pennsylvania and Virginia) allow police pickup or emergency hospitalization, while 38 states allow outpatient or inpatient civil commitment.

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    Anthony Mack

    November 21, 2018 at 5:49 AM

    My daughter is 27 and indulging in straight vodka and cant stop. we have sent her numerous times to detox rehabs AA Na meetings and presently half in a outpatient service here in NY. WE are afraid she will have another blackout and get hurt or sexually abused out in the streets. She refused to address her PTSD issues with a therapist and fights with me and her mother daily,stop attending college and working. I no there are laws as in obtaining a Mental Health Warrant for her mental issues but what about the NY law for her addiction issues. we have ran out of options and dont want to bury my baby girl or to run back and fourth to watch her die in a hospital bed from alcohol issues that have destroyed her body. Please !!! help pLease send me another suggestion.

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      Josie Feliz

      November 21, 2018 at 10:28 AM

      Thanks for your message Anthony. We have forwarded your message to one of our helpline specialists who can help better answer your question, and she will be reaching out to you shortly.

      Our Helpline is a good place to start if you’d like to talk to someone about what you’re going through. Feel free to connect with us in whichever manner you choose in the future:

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