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Can I Legally Make My Teen Go To Substance Abuse Treatment?

Written on May 17, 2023
Can I Legally Make My Teen Go To Substance Abuse Treatment?

As a parent, it can be a difficult decision to make when your teenager is struggling with mental health issues, addiction, or other behavioral problems. You may be considering whether or not to require your teen to go to treatment, but the question that may be on your mind is whether it is legal to do so. The answer is not always clear-cut, but there are certain guidelines that can help you make an informed decision.

Addiction and Mental Health Treatment for Teens

First, it’s important to understand that minors (under the age of 18) are generally considered legally incompetent, meaning they are not able to make decisions for themselves. However, this does not mean that parents can force their children to do anything they want. The law recognizes minors’ rights and protections, including the right to consent to or refuse medical treatment.

Parent Rights and Responsibilities

In general, parents have the right and responsibility to make decisions regarding their child’s welfare, including seeking treatment for medical or mental health conditions. However, in some situations, a parent’s authority may be limited or overridden. For example, if a teenager is deemed competent to make their own medical decisions, they may have the right to refuse treatment even if their parents want them to receive it. This is especially true for teenagers who are close to the age of majority (18 years old), as they may have greater autonomy in medical decision-making.

Court Involvement

In some cases, a court may also become involved in determining whether a teenager should receive treatment. For example, if a teenager is struggling with substance abuse and is involved in the juvenile justice system, a judge may order them to attend a drug treatment program as part of their sentence. Additionally, if a teenager is deemed a danger to themselves or others due to a mental health condition, a court may order them to receive treatment.

It’s also worth noting that there are different types of treatment, and some may require a higher level of consent than others. For example, voluntary outpatient therapy may require only the teenager’s consent, while involuntary inpatient treatment may require a court order.


Ultimately, while parents generally have the right to make decisions regarding their child’s welfare, including seeking treatment for mental health or behavioral issues, there are some limitations to this authority. The drug defense lawyers at Ciccarelli Law Offices note that it’s important to work closely with legal professionals to ensure that you are making the best decisions for your child’s well-being while also respecting their autonomy and legal rights.

If you are considering treatment for yourself or a loved one, contact us to learn more about our services.