Laws on compulsory commitment to care (CCC) in mental health, social and criminal legislation for adult persons with alcohol and/or drug dependence or misuse problems are constructed to address different scenarios related to substance use disorders. This study examines how such CCC laws in European states vary in terms of legal rights, formal orders of decision and criteria for involuntary admission, and assesses whether three legal frameworks (criminal, mental and social law) equally well ensure human and civil rights.
Thirty-nine laws, from 38 countries, were analysed. Respondents replied in web-based questionnaires concerning a) legal rights afforded the persons with substance use problems during commitment proceedings, b) sources of formal application, c) instances for decision on admission, and d) whether or not 36 different criteria could function as grounds for decisions on CCC according to the law in question. Analysis of a-c were conducted in bivariate cross-tabulations. The 36 criteria for admission were sorted in criteria groups based on principal component analysis (PCA). To investigate whether legal rights, decision-making authorities or legal criteria may discriminate between types of law on CCC, discriminant analyses (DA) were conducted.
There are few differences between the three types of law on CCC concerning legal rights afforded the individual. However, proper safeguards of the rights against unlawful detention seem still to be lacking in some CCC laws, regardless type of law. Courts are the decision-making body in 80 % of the laws, but this varies clearly between law types. Criteria for CCC also differ between types of law, i.e. concerning who should be treated: dependent offenders, persons with substance use problems with acting out or aggressive behaviors, or other vulnerable persons with alcohol or drug problems.
The study raises questions concerning whether various European CCC laws in relation to substance use disorder or misuse problems comply with international ratified conventions concerning human and civil rights. This, however, applies to all three types of law, i.e. social, mental health and criminal legislation. The main differences between law types concern legal criteria, reflecting different national priorities on implicit ambitions of CCC - for correction, for prevention, or for support to those in greatest need of care.