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Involuntary admission for alcohol/drug users.

Updated: Dec 14, 2019

Involuntary admission for alcohol/drug users.

It is common in most people who are struggling with addiction to be in denial, most of them think they are “in control” of the situation but the truth is they are being controlled by their substance of choice.

This results in many people feeling helpless when they witness someone they love to suffer from this disease but are reluctant to seek help. It's so heartbreaking to watch someone destroying his/her life because of addiction and being unable to do anything to help them.

However, if you have someone that you care for who is addicted to drugs or alcohol but is not willing to get help voluntarily, there is good news. According to the Prevention Of and Treatment for Substance Abuse Act 70 of 2008 a court enquiry can be made for involuntary admission into treatment for such people.

How to apply for a court order for involuntary treatment admission:

The Prevention Of and Treatment for Substances Abuse Act 70 of 2008, section 33 requires a person who is closely associated to the person concerned (friend/family member), a community leader or a social worker to make a sworn statement (affidavit) in order to open an enquiry.

This person has to be well acquitted with persons drinking or drug habits. The sworn statement has to outline the addicts drinking pattern if she/he:

(a) is a danger to himself or herself or to the immediate environment or causes a major public health risk;

(b) in any other manner does harm to his or her own welfare or the welfare of his or her family and others; or

(c) commits a criminal act to sustain his or her dependence on substances.

The sworn statement has to be submitted to the prosecutor of the magistrate court in the area where the person concerned (the drug/alcohol user) resides. The prosecutor might then request the clerk of the court to issue a summon to the police officer to be served to the person concerned, calling him/her to appear before a magistrate at a time and place stated in such summons.

In other cases after a magistrate has obtained a report from a social worker regarding the circumstances of the person concerned a warrant of apprehension can be issued. The warrant of apprehension allows the drug user to be detained and brought before the magistrate.

In the event that the person concerned does not appear before the magistrate a warrant of arrest may be issued.

Committal of person to a treatment centre after enquiry

If it appears to the magistrate on considerations of all the evidence submitted that the person concerned requires and is likely to benefit from treatment and skills development provided in a treatment centre, or it would be in the interest of parties involved or in the interest of the community then the magistrate may order that the person concerned be admitted at a treatment centre for a period not exceeding 12 months.

However, people have to understand that if a person concerned has committed criminal changes and has outstanding charges against him, a court order to go for treatment does not preclude the criminal offences.

Pros and Cons of involuntary admission

Involuntary admission has its benefits and its challenges regarding the person concerned. In most cases, the family/friends or the loved ones benefit because they know that they need not worry for their loved one as he/she is in a safe environment.

Sometimes some people who use drugs/drink alcohol want to change but they have fear of the ‘unknown”. So if it is the case with the person, by going through the treatment program involuntarily they might realise that there is nothing to fear and recovery is possible and they might end up benefiting from the program.

Though other people get into the program with a negative attitude, through motivation and different kinds of therapy offered in treatment centres the person might end up having a positive attitude and motivated to go through the program.

On the other hand, some people might feel betrayed by their loved ones and they will go to the treatment centre just because they have been forced to, hence they will not be willing to comply with the rules and regulations of the centre which might result in them being expelled and going back to their drug /alcohol use.

Others attend the program because they have no choice in the matter but they will not give their all. They will be in the treatment program just to “serve their time”. Usually, people like these equate treatment to prison. Therefore in cases like this, it’s likely going to be a waste of everyone’s time because even after the treatment the person will still go back and use drugs/drink alcohol.

Though sobriety is considered as an individual’s choice, research has shown that most people who are admitted involuntarily in rehab have the same equal chances of recovering as those admitted voluntarily. So there is hope for everyone affected by this disease called addiction be the person is willing or not.

For more information and assistance in involuntary admission for your loved ones, please contact us today.


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