Court-Ordered Rehab: Is It Worth It?

court gavelDear Reader,

Lindsay Lohan has been on my mind recently, and not just because I have seen her on countless new stories. She has been in the spotlight recently after having completed her court-ordered 90-day rehab stay. I admit to being skeptical when I learned that Lohan was going to rehab—again. Mind you, this was her sixth stay in six years. She first went in to the Wonderland Clinic in January 2007 for a thirty-day program. May 2007 meant a second trip to rehab, this time to Promises for 45 days. In August 2007, the Cirque Lodge in Utah welcomed her in, where she stayed until October 5th. About three years later, Lohan began a court-ordered rehab stay at the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center in August 2010. Though sentenced to ninety days, she stayed for 23. In September 2010, she went to the Betty Ford Center in California, where she was ordered to stay until January of 2011. She complied and was released on January 3rd, 2011. May 2013 saw Lindsay return to Betty Ford for a 90-day, court-ordered stay. She left after a little more than a month, but transferred to Cliffside Malibu, where she stayed until July 31st, 2013, thus completing 90 days in rehab. It’s been a long rehab story, and I am sure no one has felt it more than Lindsay. Some could argue that she really doesn’t want it, since she has been in rehab so many times. Surely, one could say, she would be clean already if she just had the will to be clean. It should be reminded, though, that fighting addiction is not just a matter of willpower and that it doesn’t make it on the same level as, say, going to the gym a routine workout on the treadmill, or saying no to an extra cookie. Addictions, and especially those that are based on substance abuse, warp the mind. They have been scientifically shown to change the course of the brain and rewire the thoughts. It can become all the addict knows in life, all they care about, all that is left for them. It can become your identity, and who would ever want to give up their identity? Worse, it is not just something you want, but something you become convinced that you desperately, full-heartedly, absolutely need to have. This, of course, is where some would say that extra help is required. One cannot break an addiction alone. But where is the line between helping someone and forcing them to get help? How does one know how to stop?           Considering that half of her stays have been court-ordered, it seems safe to say that forcing someone to go to rehab does not stop the addiction. This is understandable. Any rehab, no matter how nice the facility is or how caring the staff are, is not going to do a person any good if that person does not want to truly get better. Rehab and getting clean are not totally identical with each other. Rehab means getting clean and learning how to manage without your drug of choice, but getting clean means putting those steps into practice—more often than not, again and again and again until they start to become natural. Only a small percentage of the true work is done in a rehab facility. Going back to the real life and learning how to deal is the true test. And how can you force someone to deal with their life? You can’t. You can send them to rehab and have them learn alternative ways of living, but that does not mean that they will pursue a different lifestyle once the program is completed. I suppose that the hope of any court-ordered stay is that the person going to rehab will experience a drastic change of heart once they begin to get sober and realize what life without their drug could be like. While this is understandable (someone in the midst of addiction may not be thinking as clearly as someone who has been given time to start recovery and let the mind heal), I do wonder if this is the best thing. If a person is not ready or willing to change their life, why force them?    When I was researching for this, I expected to find appalling statistics for court-ordered rehab stays. However, research seems to suggest that the initial motivation for going to rehab is not the make-or-break factor for determining success outside of rehab. It seems that the rate of success is roughly the same whether or not the rehab is court-ordered. This translates to a 40-60% success rate.

Looking through research, it also seems that there are benefits to being forced to do something (or as forced as you go without physical/mental torture involved). For one, an addict may start to realize the downward path that their addiction is taking them: nowhere. If you have nowhere else to go but rehab (or jail), why not make the most of it? Of course you can fake it until leaving, but if you know that you will relapse and, possibly, get another court-ordered rehab stay, you will only turn your life into a series of hits and relapses and lockdowns. That’s hardly appealing. A court-ordered stay could also give an addict the sense of urgency that comes with their addiction. It may be that the person finally gets and understands that they were in such bad condition that they had to be legally forced to get help. However, I have never been court-ordered to a rehabilitation, and so cannot say for certain what it feels like to go through the experience.

Reader, what is your opinion of the issue? Should addicts be court-ordered to go to rehab regardless of the addict’s attitude prior to going? Or should rehab be reserved only for those who are willing to make the effort?

As for Lindsay, while I do not know the specifics of her situation, I did get a chance to see her recent interview with Oprah. I felt that, in total, the responses she gave were appropriate and had some level of logic to them. I did feel that she may have been holding back on some information (such as saying she had only done cocaine 10-15 times) and being purposely vague on select answers, but she did seem to be mostly genuine. Only the passing of time can reveal where her mindset is. She says that she is in a much better spot right now and wishes to hold onto this feeling. I wish her the best and hope that this rehab stay, despite being court-ordered, was worth it.


Jumbled Writer

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16 Responses to Court-Ordered Rehab: Is It Worth It?

  1. I think once a person commits a crime – addict or not, they must face the consequences. To ‘let them go’ is wrong – just because they have problems. Innocent people get hurt – just because… Lindsay Lohan should be grateful they treated her for an addiction – rather than just throw her into regular jail for her crimes. I have no idea whether her addictions caused her crimes or whether she is just prone to doing crimes like some people are. Either way – we can’t just ignore a person who does crimes because ‘they didn’t know what they were doing’. I have heard many, many drunks say the exact same thing. To me – it’s just downright bad behavior.

    Since drugs are ‘mind-altering’ – it’s sometimes necessary to force an addict to do something against their will – if they are going to harm others. Because often on their own – they aren’t thinking right? That’s just my opinion.

    I do hope she will lead a better/happier life and keep her addictions under control.

    • That’s true. Alcohol and drugs can lead people to do things that they would never dream of doing when sober. However, just because they are acting out of character does not mean that their behavior should have no consequences. It is not just what is best for society, but what is best for them.

  2. I wish the best for Lindsay Lohan. The level of professional help available to her is amazing.

    This is an example of two things. One: the “rich” have access to help. Two: There appears to be a requirement that a person has to sink into a life of despair with drugs or alcohol abuse before recovery assistance may become available to them – perhaps… minimally the option of joining an AA group???.

    Those who plummet into a paralysis of depression and anxiety due to several traumas coming too quickly for their coping capability (yet they manage to avoid the pitfalls of drug or abuse, cutting or anorexic tendencies) have access to no assistance in recovery.

    JW, I am sorry if this totally side tracks your intended discussion. If this is the case, please just ignore this comment.

    • No, I encourage all discussion, unless it is spam or hate speech. I would add, though, that, while the rich can afford to get treatment, there are going to be a lot of people that stand in the way of that treatment. A rich drug addict, for example, can pay for rehab, but the drug dealers are not going to like it one bit if they have to let go of one of their best, heavy-paying customers.
      As also sometimes happens, a person that gets in a high position can fire anyone who does not agree with their point of view. So, if one works for a rich boss, and receives a hefty paycheck, are they going to encourage the boss to get treatment? What if it means taking the risk of getting fired and losing that access to high money? There are people in the world who would turn down the money in order to help someone, but there are those who will prioritize money and status over doing what’s best for the other person. If you get enough of these people on a rich, alcohol/drug-addicted person’s management team, it can lead to prolonging the disease…sometimes until it is too late.
      I hope some of this made sense. I have a feeling I am being messy with my wording, so I apologize.

  3. You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink. What court-ordered anything says to me is, “look at us! we’re progressive!” It’s a way to not look so mean, bad, rough, and tough. The courts were never designed to be kind-hearted.

    Does it help? That’s all up to the individual, from my perspective. Being a cigarette smoker, it’s a matter of wanting to quit. There has to be a good reason, and personal health reasons are not good reasons. In the end, we all die and we might as well go out while doing what we crave. That’s the base rationalization on that issue.

    If part of me didn’t think Lohan was doing it for the attention, I’d say she needs to have a life-altering event occur to her before any of this, voluntarily or forced, is worth it. Until that time, she will be on a rehab merry-go-round until she expires.

    • Very true. You have to value a life of recovery over a life of ill-health before you will change your ways. Sometimes, it can be so easy to rationalize behaviors, as you point out, with the, “We all have to die someday” type of thinking. I know I have done that many times. I just hope that it does not have to come to a life-or-death situation for Miss Lohan to truly change her ways. At that point, it could be too late.

    • To be fair, the treatment centers are also taking advantage of the situation. It takes the average addict 90 days to get to a place where they are thinking clearly again. These 20-30 day stays are just “restoring her luster” without giving her a chance to be in a position to start healing. Insurance companies are also notorious for putting limits on a client for the amount of time they will cover. I think this is like taking your car to the mechanic and saying they have “an hour to fix whatever is wrong” with your car, and then blaming the mechanic when it does meet your expectations. It is terrible and sad. Sending her to jail would not benefit her, either. Many treatment counselors struggle with releasing clients before they are ready. Some days you find yourself wondering if you are getting enough in to accumulate and eventually build a toolbox to help them maintain sobriety. If they are lucky enough to be able to keep returning.

      • Ah, the insurance companies only complicate matters. To just think of all the patients who have not received the full help that they needed because their insurance company pulled the plug too early.

  4. Having been a professional counselor for addicts and alcoholics, many of them court-ordered and in my groups as the “last chance”, I have seen a range of reactions from court-ordered rehab.
    Sometimes, a court-order can be a “wake-up call” to the substance abuser. Many times, the substance abuser goes into rehab simply to sides-step legal consequences of their behavior.
    For me, I think court-ordered rehab is a great idea PROVIDED that the crime is still paid for: ie: if you would have been sentenced to a year in jail for a DUI, then go to jail for the year (gets the drugs and alcohol out of the system, IF they want to be clean because sometimes, even in jail, drugs and alcohol are available) and AFTER your jail term is done, then go to court-ordered (and taxpayer expense usually) rehab for 90 days. I don’t believe less than 90 days in-patient is adequate for someone who has been so deep into addiction that they have committed a crime.
    So there you have my opinion.

    • Very interesting information you provided. I think that your idea of combining jail and rehab (in the case of a criminal act) would be a strong idea and could hopefully lead to that “wake-up call” you describe. It doesn’t always happen, but just going to a 28-day rehab seems somehow insufficient. True change has to occur, and it doesn’t usually come so quickly.

  5. I’m not familiar with the treatment centers you listed or their protocols, but many of my friends in the mental health industry strongly believe that it’s vital to treat underlying pathology (anxiety, depression, etc.) before achieving any success. The patient has to willingly participate in treatment at all levels before anything “sticks.” Having battled anxiety and depression most of my life, I know managing those conditions is not easy work, so I can understand why relapses occur. I recall watching Lindsay Lohan early in her career and thinking, “That girl is going to go far.” So sad.

    • Yes, just getting to a sober place is not going to be enough if the underlying issues are not looked at and helped. And there usually are underlying issues that leads a person to such destruction. Even if treatment for these issues occurs, there is still a chance of relapse, but it is smaller.

  6. I believe that they have to want help to get help.. Help is out there but you can not force them to accept it. Many do not wake up saying I think I want to be an addict. Something has happened to them to cause them to revert to this way of dealing with their pain. Sometimes the “court ordered” can be a wake up call. Other times it is just a way to beat the system. I have dealt with this in my own life with my child. It wasnt until I sent her to get help and she finally woke up to she needed help that she got help. But still relapsed occaisionally. During her final relapse, which was on an anti migraine med, she ended up taking her own life. Which I firmly believe she did not know what she was doing. If she did she never would have done that. It is a very hard thing to deal with all the way around.

    • Recovery is always scary for someone who has had an addiction, because that means changing your coping behaviors. When someone goes through addiction, they may get to a point where they believe that their sole identity rests in their addiction. So even if they want help, that question of “What will happen when I change?” is restless in the mind. Being forced to start changing your behavior can help pull someone out of that worry. If it wasn’t for that help, they might have been forever stuck in that cycle. So I agree with you that court-ordered treatment can sometimes lead to positive results. As you mention, though, treating addiction is never easy, and usually involves more than one try. It sounds like your journey has been tough and I wish you well.

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