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Is Forceable Incarceration Under Section 35 Helping or Hurting Addicts?

Is Forceable Incarceration Under Section 35 Helping or Hurting Addicts?

The motivation behind Section 35 in Massachusetts law is goodhearted, looking to help those who are most reluctant to treat their addictions.

In its ideal use, the law allows courts to “involuntary commit someone who has an alcohol or substance use disorder,” especially if there is a chance the addict could cause harm to themselves or others due to their active addiction.1 The problem is, many addicts are not sent to addiction treatment centers when they are committed to treatment under Section 35, but rather to special housing in correctional facilities if there are not enough beds at treatment programs.2 Additionally, forcing someone into treatment undermines the effectiveness of the treatment process. Our team explores how Section 35 may be more harmful than helpful.

So, how effective is Section 35’s approach to treating addiction in Massachusetts? Our drug and alcoholism treatment near Boston believes in true treatment for addicts, not incarceration or time in jail. Criminalization of addiction harms addicted individuals and the communities in which they live. Though Section 35 does not automatically incarcerate addicts, the housing in jails or similar facilities is not conducive to supporting the recovery process. Involuntary incarceration for addicts and forced treatment are both dangerous paths that don’t allow the addicted individual to choose their own path of recovery.

Effective Approaches for Treating Addiction in Massachusetts

Though many families would love to force their loved one or children into addiction treatment to help them get sober, recovery is not something that can be forced on a person. If they do not want to get sober, they will not stay sober. Effective treatment starts with a willingness to participate in recovery.

While Section 35 has good intentions of helping those in need get support for recovery, forcing people into treatment will not help them get and stay sober. Forced treatment can feel less constructive than voluntary treatment, which is why it’s crucial to give people a choice and allow them to decide their path of recovery.

If you are seeking support in helping your loved one begin treatment, contact our addiction treatment center in Massachusetts. We offer intervention planning services to help you begin the process of helping them into recovery.

Call 888-280-4763 to learn more about how to help your friend, family member, or loved one get treatment. From detox to treatment and beyond, we’re here to help men and women overcome difficulties with substance abuse. Call today.


  1. Mass.gov – Section 35
  2. Mass Live – Massachusetts Section 35: What it is and how it works
Alyssa, Director of Digital Marketing
Alyssa, Director of Digital Marketing
Alyssa is the National Director of Digital Marketing and is responsible for a multitude of integrated campaigns and events in the behavioral health and addictions field. All articles have been written by Alyssa and medically reviewed by our Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Darrin Mangiacarne.
Is Forceable Incarceration Under Section 35 Helping or Hurting Addicts?
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