April 30, 2022 – To do better, the United States needs more evidence-based treatment. And since the data shows that the best treatment is compassionate and inviting, coercion should be the last resort, not the first.

Mr. Norelli opposes compulsory drug treatment. He feels that being forced into treatment can push people in the other direction if they are not ready to quit. “Of the hundred people that came in at the same time I did, only a few completed it,” he said, adding that he is still disturbed by the “humiliating” way they were treated.

Despite having some inspiring counselors, the rehab he was required to attend used, among other methods, so-called attack therapy, an unscientific approach in which the therapist and other group members try to break individuals by shouting hurtful things at them to destroy a person’s “addictive” personality.

Instead, Mr. Norelli believes it was positive forces in his life, like his family and the desire to spend time with his son, that kept him motivated, despite the dehumanizing tactics.

Supporters of compulsory drug treatment — which often include family members of people with addiction — frequently argue that it is the only way to get their loved ones to stop doing drugs, and so remain alive. And for decades, addiction experts argued that research supports legally mandated treatment. In 2018, the National Institute on Drug Abuse said that “treatment doesn’t need to be voluntary to be effective,” in its document on principles of quality care.


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