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Involuntary Treatment

Currently, Canadian health laws value a child’s right to refuse treatment over their best interest. But is the child able to exercise free will while they are addicted? Under the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, minors (those under 18 years) have the right to be protected – even from themselves. Addiction is in the driver’s seat; the child is along for the ride.

Is involuntary treatment effective?

There is very little research on involuntary treatment for youth. So far, the research is inconclusive. There is a lot of research that says early intervention reduces harms and costs. There is evidence of the success of coerced treatment for doctors, pilots and other professionals. There is evidence that drug courts work.

The choice is between involuntary treatment and untreated addiction

Untreated addiction leads to homelessness, criminal activity, prostitution and overdoses that result in heart attacks, permanent brain damage and death.

If a child is refusing treatment, the choice is NOT between voluntary and involuntary treatment. It is between involuntary treatment and untreated addiction.

Imagine this is your son — which would you pick?

Your 14 year old is addicted to cannabis and has other mental health conditions. He is involved in criminal activities to support his addiction.  He is refusing treatment.  Do you:

  • let him get arrested so he gets a criminal record?  (this is an option)
  • let him continue to use and sell drugs? (this is an option)
  • intervene to get him into treatment, recovery and back home?  (sorry, not an option)

There is no question that treatment is the most cost effective alternative. Research shows that every dollar spent on substance use treatment saves $4 in healthcare costs and $7 in law enforcement and other criminal justice costs.

See below for news stories that speak to this issue:


We Can Help

Families for Addiction Recovery supports parents/caregivers of children struggling with addiction (regardless of age)