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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    April 27, 2015 at 6:06 AM

    Washington state does not allow any drug or alcohol involuntary commitment. I’ve been trying for over 3 years to help my daughter, 24 yrs old, cause she’s hooked on that bf of hers that got her started in the 1st place. Now she’ll never be able to have children and her liver is falling because she now has hepatitis. I’ve spoken to my congressman and state legislature and it’s all about civil rights in this state. To many idiots that live here that say it’s civil right to chose whether or not you want help. These drug users are lost and cannot make good choices EVER. Something needs to be done!!! WA state has a bad reputation for heroine and it’s time they get off the pot and do something about the war on drugs.To many are dying. I’ll out live my daughter and it kills me at the thought of it. I’ll never get to be a grandma. This state could care less. #feelinglost&scared

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    Kevin ramsingh

    June 26, 2014 at 9:46 PM

    My son is stink on drugs,I live in the bronx ny ,I wish they past a law for mentally sick patient for involuntary rehab,when u have a mental problem ,and u on drugs u are a danger to others,so I wish that they past a law to take them involuntary ,and I believe that a lot of drug addicts,will get help,instead of wasting tax payers money on medication ,and drugs and medication don’t work,so why waste medication on a drug addict,put them in rehab ,if someone is mentally sick how would they know what is the right thing to do,someone have to take charge of there life,

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    Florida and Working

    June 5, 2013 at 12:54 AM

    Heard of Affordable Care Act (ObamaCare)? They will criminalize ‘unhealthy’ behaviors!!

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    Michael J. McFadden

    May 23, 2011 at 5:04 AM

    Sooooo…. how long until we see involuntary commitment for tobacco smokers, hmmm?

    – MJM

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    May 20, 2011 at 3:58 PM

    Thought this was interesting.

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