Can You Voluntarily Leave Rehab Early, Or Can Rehab Make You Stay?

Last Updated: Oct 27th 2020

Reviewed by Brittany Polansky

Can You Voluntarily Leave Rehab Early, Or Can Rehab Make You Stay?

Can you voluntarily leave rehab? If you’re an adult, nobody can keep you in rehab against your will, even if treatment is court-mandated. You can leave anytime you want, but before you walk out that door, ask yourself why you want to stop treatment. Consider the potential consequences and how leaving early may impact your life. 

Reasons for Leaving Rehab Early: Problem-Solving

If you’re struggling in rehab, tell somebody how you’re feeling. Your counselors and therapists have heard this many times, and they will help you through the rough patches. Here are a few typical reasons for leaving rehab early.

I feel terrible. Detox is tough, and it’s normal to experience a range of unpleasant symptoms, depending on your substance and the severity of your addiction. For instance, you may have nausea, muscle aches, chills, tremors, or headaches. Withdrawal isn’t limited to physical symptoms, and it’s normal to feel depressed, anxious, angry, or irritable. Cravings may be intense, and you may feel empty, like you’ve lost your best friend. 

The good news is that most of the symptoms will ease in a few days, and you’ll begin to feel better. Don’t hesitate to let someone know how you’re feeling; you may receive medications that can make withdrawal more manageable. 

I hate this place. Maybe things just aren’t going well, and you feel like you chose the wrong rehab. Your bed is uncomfortable, the food is terrible, or you just don’t fit in. Maybe you’re bored or frustrated, or you miss your family. It’s normal to feel like a fish out of water at first. Try to be patient; the first couple of weeks are nearly always the hardest. 

I don’t need rehab: Maybe you think you can stop using without help, but be honest with yourself — if you could stop on your own, you would have done so by now. If you’ve made it through withdrawal, or you’ve been in treatment for a while, you may feel like you’ve got the problem licked, and further treatment isn’t necessary. 

Your chance of a positive outcome is substantially improved if you stay in treatment longer. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, research indicates most people need at least three months and sometimes much longer. Think about the progress you’ve made so far; don’t throw it all away. 

What is Court-Ordered Rehab?

If you’re convicted of a crime such as drunk driving, theft, fraud, or selling or manufacture of a controlled substance, the court may offer you a choice to enter rehab instead of spending time in prison or jail. 

After considering your case, the court may believe the crime is connected to your use of drugs or alcohol, and that it might not have occurred if you hadn’t been under the influence. If a court offered you this option, it’s because a  judge thinks you’re not a threat to society and that you have a good chance of making positive life changes. 

The National Institute on Drug Abuse reports that for many people, legal pressure is motivation to enter treatment and remain there longer. NIDA also notes that people who complete treatment are less likely to commit drug-related criminal behavior in the future.  

It’s a win-win solution for everybody. Rehab is less expensive than prison, and treatment eases society’s burden of tremendous public health costs associated with substance abuse and addiction. 

The Possible Consequences of Leaving Court-Ordered Rehab Early

Nobody can force you to remain in treatment. The ehab center won’t lock you in a closet or chain you to your bed, and they won’t send the dogs out to track you down. However, the bottom line is that you’re violating a legal agreement, and that’s a serious crime that can land you in a whole lot of trouble. In some states, leaving court-mandated treatment is a felony. 

If you leave court-ordered rehab early, the drug treatment center is legally required to notify local authorities. Then what? It depends on your history and why you landed in the court system in the first place. The court will consider your progress, behavior, and attitude while you were in rehab. They will want to know if you played an active role in your treatment and why you walked out. 

The court might decide to go easy on you, or they can prosecute you to the full extent of the law. The judge can send you to jail immediately or require you to pay a large fine. If this shows up on your record, you may have a hard time renting a house or landing a good job. If you’re guilty of a felony, you may not be able to receive college scholarships or live in public housing.

On the flip side, the court may dismiss your charges when you complete treatment, although you may still need to pay restitution or perform community service. The court may also stipulate that you continue with a 12-Step group or some form of ongoing treatment. It’s a small price to pay when you consider the alternatives.

What Happens if You Leave Rehab Early?

Whether you’re in court-ordered treatment or you entered rehab voluntarily, there are many good reasons to see it through. Rehab is a supportive place to address your substance abuse or addiction and can help if you’re facing challenges such as medical issues, employment problems, or lack of secure housing.

In treatment, you’ll learn how to manage stress and problems such as depression, anxiety, or PTSD, and you may receive meds that will help. Most importantly, you’ll learn strategies to help you avoid relapse in the future.

Don’t Wait to Seek Help

Substance use is considered a chronic disease that should be taken seriously. If your use of drugs or alcohol has landed you in legal trouble, or if you’re finding it difficult to stay in treatment, we are here to help and support you. Feel free to contact 1st Step Behavioral Healthcare here, or give us a call at 855-425-4846.

Reviewed for Medical & Clinical Accuracy by Brittany Polansky

Brittany PolanskyBrittany has been working in behavioral health since 2012 and is a Primary Clinician at our facility. She is an LCSW and holds a master’s degree in social work. She has great experience with chemical dependency and co-occurring mental health diagnoses as well as various therapeutic techniques. Brittany is passionate about treating all clients with dignity and respect, and providing a safe environment where clients can begin their healing journey in recovery.