Involuntary alcohol and other drug (AOD) treatment is a legal process in which an individual is mandated to receive treatment for substance dependence or addiction against their will. The potential benefits in these circumstances must be assessed against the removal of liberty and possible risks for already vulnerable people. This Evidence Check aimed to understand whether committing individuals to such programs produces positive outcomes, and whether they are comparable to what may have occurred through voluntary treatment. The authors identified 13 publications that met the eligibility criteria and included them in the review. Evidence quality was moderate (cohort-III-2) or low (case series IV). Involuntary AOD treatment was associated with beneficial outcomes in the form of reduced AOD use and reduced health service use. No studies measuring outcomes of involuntary treatment for adolescents / those under 18 years of age were found. In studies that compared voluntary and involuntary treatment of patients with AOD dependence, those voluntarily treated had equivalent or slightly better outcomes. The available evidence was insufficient to determine what program elements may have been associated with positive outcomes.


O’Reilly K, Wilkinson C. Involuntary treatment for alcohol and other drugs: An Evidence Check rapid review brokered by the Sax Institute ( for the NSW Ministry of Health, 2024. doi: 10.57022/accg7897

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