Should Family Members Be Able to Place Loved Ones in Rehab?

Prescription drug abuse is a growing problem. Deaths from the abuse of prescription painkillers tripled in less than ten years (1999-2008). What is to be done when family members recognize the presence of abuse? Should they be allowed to force loved ones into rehab beyond programs measured in only hours? How does the law protect an individual’s civil rights without denying loved ones a voice when the individual’s very life could be at stake?

These questions are being faced by more and more families in this country. They are questions championed by one mom whose own daughter was lost through prescription drug overdose. The mother, whose fight for family rights was chronicled in a recent online story, watched as her adult daughter struggled with prescription drug abuse for more than 10 years. Yet, because her daughter never committed a crime beyond driving while under the influence, she was never required to receive anything more than three days of rehab.

Argument on the other side holds up the importance of protecting a person’s individual civil rights. After all, should family members be able to demand rehab for other addictions? Furthermore, when a person is forcibly placed in rehab, how likely is it that treatment will succeed? Part of the recovery process is the realization of how one’s choices can harm not only self but others. If the person has no desire to change and no sense of responsibility toward others, the chance of true and lasting recovery remains small.

Still, some states have passed laws which empower families to forcibly enroll loved ones in long-term treatment. Whether or not other states will enact similar legislation remains to be seen. In the meanwhile, this is a discussion deserving attention.