Compulsory substance addiction treatment

On 21 February, 2018 changes to the laws about compulsory drug and alcohol treatment came into effect.

To find out how to apply for severe substance addiction treatment, see the Ministry of Health's website.(external link)

To find out about the Family Court's role in the process, see the information below.

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Reviewing a patient’s treatment

When a person is accepted for compulsory treatment for severe substance addiction, the clinician in charge signs a Compulsory Treatment Certificate and treatment begins. Within 10 days of the certificate being signed, the clinician must ask the Family Court to review the patient’s compulsory status.

Within 7 days of receiving the review application, a Family Court judge will interview the patient. The interview may be via video link if the judge thinks it is suitable.

During the interview, the judge will talk with the patient about their situation and the proposed treatment, and the patient will have the chance to tell the judge what they think about it. The judge will also consult with the clinician and any other people they think necessary.

After the interview, the judge will decide if the criteria for compulsory treatment has been met. If it has been, the judge can:

  • consider the review application immediately, or
  • decide to hear the application at a review hearing. 

The review hearing

The review hearing will be held within 10 days of when the application was filed. 

The patient must be at the hearing unless the court says they don’t have to be.

If the patient is in a treatment centre, the hearing will probably take place via video link. If the patient is being treated in the community instead, the hearing may be held at the court or a place near to where the patient lives.

Compulsory Treatment Order

At the hearing, the judge will consider all the information from the application and the interview. If they decide the patient should continue to receive compulsory treatment, the judge will make a Compulsory Treatment Order.

If the judge decides the criteria for compulsory treatment hasn’t been met, they’ll dismiss the application and order that the patient be immediately released from compulsory treatment.

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Urgent review of patient’s compulsory treatment status

If you or someone else is receiving compulsory treatment for severe substance addiction, you can ask the Family Court to consider whether it should continue. 

Applying for an urgent review of a patient’s status

You or someone else can ask for an urgent review at any time if you or they believe:

  • the criteria for compulsory treatment hasn’t been met or is no longer being met, or 
  • the Compulsory Treatment Certificate should never have been issued. 

The people who can apply for an urgent review of a patient's status are:

  • the patient

or the patient's:

  • principal caregiver 
  • welfare guardian 
  • lawyer
  • medical practitioner


  • the person who applied to have the patient assessed
  • the responsible district inspector.

To apply, fill in the form ‘Application for urgent review of patient’s status’ and give it to your local court.

Note: When you print the forms it's important to print them single sided.

Application for urgent review of patient's status [PDF, 61 KB]

Find your local court

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Appealing the judge’s decision

If a person isn’t happy with the judge’s decision, they can appeal to the High Court.

Ministry of Justice High Court

Find out more about the Substance Addiction (Compulsory Assessment and Treatment) Act 2017(external link)

Find out about patients’ rights under the Act(external link)

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