Can a hospital make you go to rehab?

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Can a hospital make you go to rehab? 

A hospital cannot make you or your loved one go to rehab. The choice to pursue an alcohol or drug free life is 100% up to you. 

It is always advisable to seek other alternatives, such as compassionate intervention. These options are geared towards helping the addict see why the need for rehab. 

Many chronic alcohol and drug users end up in the emergency room due to excessive alcohol and drug intake.

A study by Andy Irving, Steve Goodacre, Joanne Blake, and others shows that acute alcohol intoxication is a burden to hospital emergency care services [1].  

Alcohol misuse in the UK is the highest in the world. Hospital admission for those below 18 due to alcohol-related disease, injury, or condition is also relatively high.

From the period starting from 2016 to 2019, about 11,233 youths were hospitalized due to alcohol related disease, injury, or conditions [2]. 

Having an addicted loved one or family member is a cause for stress. In most cases, you feel that forcing the person to accept rehab will help them change.

You could be dealing with an adult who is a chronic drug or alcohol addict, or you could be dealing with youth or an elderly parent who is a heavy drinker. 

Hospitals cannot make you go to rehabs for alcoholics. Families also need to understand that they cannot force a loved one into a rehab programme. 

Even if the person goes to rehab, once they complete treatment, they may relapse. 

What to expect from rehab at a hospital? 

Rehab at a hospital is mainly short-term and cantered on providing medically assisted detoxification. Hospitals are not invested in providing comprehensive care to patients struggling with addiction.  

What happens is hospitals provide essential addiction services, counselling, substance abuse education, and behavioural therapy. 

If the patient has alcohol abuse disorder, the hospital provides addiction medicine such as benzodiazepines, naltrexone, Acamprosate, and Disulfiram.  

These medications help the person manage the alcohol withdrawal symptoms. Hospitals provide 24/7 supervision to check your vital signs as your body gets rid of the drug or alcohol toxins. 

Treatment at a hospital has a clinical feel with few amenities for the addict.  

The levels of treatment provided include: 

  • Inpatient rehab 
  • Outpatient rehab 
  • Partial hospitalization programs (PHPs). 
  • Intensive outpatient rehab. 

Alcohol or drug treatment in hospitals is short-term and lasts about 30 months or less. Some hospitals offer medical-assisted detox only and can link you to a rehab centre where you or your loved one can continue treatment. 

Some hospitals have a residential program in place, but it is not as comprehensive as you'll find in a rehab centre.

If you or your loved one complete treatment at a medical centre but do not want to pursue other activities that will help you achieve long-term sobriety, then the medical centre cannot force you. 

Choosing a rehab centre  

Drug rehab centres are institutions that only focus on addiction treatment. Rehab is set to help addicts gain the right tools and resources that will help them overcome the addiction.

Anyone struggling with drug or alcohol addiction will benefit from rehab.  

Someone can go for rehab after intervention and end up motivated to change their lives by achieving sobriety. 

Rehab centres offer two main approaches to treatment: Inpatient and outpatient treatment.

The main difference between these two treatment options is that the person stays in the rehab centre for some time with an inpatient.

Outpatient treatment is more flexible and less intensive as patients visit the treatment centre for several hours a week. 

In most addiction cases, most people want a quick fix to the addiction problem. However, drug or alcohol use significantly affects the brain.

Dealing with the effects of addiction requires time, commitment, and a willingness to change. 

Full details of Abbeycare's programme for alcohol addiction.


Choosing a rehab centre  

Treatment at a rehab centre is better than visiting a medical facility due to several reasons: 

a). More treatment options 

Unlike medical centres, rehab facilities provide dual diagnosis and specialized treatment. Many rehab centres offer unique and extensive services.

Services such as health and nutritional assessment, aftercare, outdoor-based programs, etc. 

b). Comprehensive care 

You can expect a structured, comprehensive care plan at a rehab centre. You will work with an addiction expert to come up with a treatment plan suitable for your needs.

The plan is designed to help the addict during their rehab stay. Once treatment ends, the treatment provider offers aftercare services and helps you easily transition from treatment to their normal life. 

c). Individualized treatment 

Medical centres have a standardized rehab program for addiction treatment. Conversely, rehab centres prioritize individualized treatment plans and ensure the patient gets the care they need for their unique experience during treatment. 

d). More amenities 

Depending on the type of facility, you can get amenities such as a fitness centre, sports, a pool, massage services, etc. 

e). A safe environment 

A rehab centre provides you with a safe environment where you can focus on your health and recovery. Most centres are set in a natural environment.

Some studies show the natural setting boosts health by relieving stress which is a major contributor to substance abuse. 

Most hospitals are in the city, so it's hard to find a place to relax and focus on treatment. But with a rehab centre, you get to escape from everyday life. 

f). Longer duration of care 

Hospitals offer short treatment programs. If you or your loved one are struggling with substance use disorder, a rehab centre is the best option. Long-term alcohol or drug rehab can last between 6 months to a year. 

This article will help you find the right rehab centre: How to choose the right rehab centre in 2022 

Making your loved one quit drinking 

Family members often feel helpless when they see a loved one struggling with addiction. Most addicts are in denial about substance use and will refuse treatment.

You can convince them to go for treatment, but if they lack the motivation to change, the treatment may not benefit them. 

You can seek the assistance of a qualified professional to talk to your loved one about the harm of addiction.

A certified addiction counsellor can help you talk to your loved one about how substance abuse is harming their lives and the lives of others.

This approach is known as an intervention.  

Many rehab centres offer an intervention program with a certified intervention professional (CIP). 

It is difficult for a family member to understand why their loved one does not want treatment. Alcohol and drug use affects the brain, and in most cases, the addict does not see the situation the same way as their loved one.

The addict will provide excuses and blame circumstances for their condition. 

Working with a CIP will plan for the intervention and work with friends and family members to create an environment where the addict feels safe. They will also provide other services, such as an initial clinical assessment.

After that, they will discuss the treatment options available that will set the addict on the path to recovery. 

It is possible to get a court ordered rehabilitation?

In the UK, a court ordered rehab is offered to those caught committing a minor offense while under the influence of drugs. The court can order a person to seek treatment at a community-level facility.  [4].

The court cannot order treatment at a specialized treatment program. It isn't easy to get into NHS drug treatment because of the long wait times. In most cases, court ordered rehab is the alternative to prison. 

Any person aged 16 and above with problem drinking is entitled to consent to treatment The law assumes they are in a capacity to decide for their health unless there's sufficient evidence to suggest otherwise. [5]. 

The evidence that can help you force them to go to rehab includes: 

a). You can prove that they struggle with alcohol or drug addiction. 

b). You can prove that the addiction can damage their health or lead to permanent injury, e.g., attempted suicide or attempted to inflict harm on others. 

c). The addiction has become so severe that they cannot carry out basic duties, e.g., seek food, shelter, or clothing for themselves. 


Most addicts are not willing to accept that the substance use has damaged their health and their lives.

Yet, there are several ways that you can help them see that recovery is for their good. You can pursue forced rehab or intervention approaches. 

Enrolling in rehabilitation services offers a higher chance at recovery, especially if the person is willing to seek treatment.

With rehab, they will get various therapy options, support groups, and assistance from medical practitioners plus addiction experts. 

The path to recovery is not easy.  

If the individual is unwilling to commit to change, they are likely to relapse once the treatment ends. Still, there are cases where forced rehab helped the person see the need to improve their lives. 

Abbeycare Pricing Bot

Last Updated: February 3, 2022

About the author

Peter Szczepanski

Peter has been on the GPhC register for 29 years. He holds a Clinical Diploma in Advanced Clinical Practice and he is a Clinical Lead in Alcohol and Substance Misuse for Abbeycare Gloucester and works as the Clinical Lead in Alcohol and Substance Use in Worcestershire. Peter also co-authored the new 6th edition of Drugs In Use by Linda Dodds, writing Chapter 15 on Alcohol Related Liver Disease. Find Peter on Respiratory Academy, Aston University graduates, University of Birmingham, Q, Pharmaceutical Journal, the Dudley Pharmaceutical Committee, Dudley Council, Twitter, and LinkedIn.