Can You Be Forced to Take an Antidepressant?

Force to Take Antidepressant
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Question:  My doctor has been threatening me saying that if I don't take my medication I can be put in a hospital because I am a threat to myself and other people.  Is this true?  Can I be hospitalized and forced to take an antidepressant?

Answer:  While you can be involuntarily hospitalized for your depression, you can't be forced to take an antidepressant medication against your will.  Legally, you are still considered to be competent to make your own medical decisions, including those involving mental health.

In order to receive treatment, you must give informed consent.  This means you must be informed about all the risks and benefits of treatment and allowed to make your own choice to either receive or reject treatment, even if your choice goes against what your physician feels is best.

However, if you have been involuntarily hospitalized and are deemed to be in immediate danger of hurting yourself or others, there are certain medications that you could be forced to take as an emergency measure.  These medications are mainly provided with the intent of calming you and stabilizing your condition rather than treating your depression.  So, for example, you might be given a sedative to help calm you, but not an antidepressant.  An antidepressant is considered to be treatment and can be refused.

The only way that you can be forced to take an antidepressant is if you have been declared incompetent by a court of law.

  There are several steps that would have to be followed in order to have a person declared mentally incompetent:

  1. A form would have to be filed with the Probate Court that has jurisdiction in area where you live.  This form would also have to include an application for a person to be made your court-appointed guardian.
  1. You would need to undergo a psychological evaluation.  If you refuse, you can be forced by court order to comply.
  2. The results of your psychological evaluation would then need to be submitted along with the application form to the Probate Court.  The person filing the application would  need to post a bond in order to protect your property and interests.
  3. The Probate Court would then make a determination of whether there are sufficient grounds to declare you incompetent and whether the person seeking to be appointed guardian is suitable for the position.
  4. Adult protective services would also need be contacted and allowed to do an investigation before you could be declared incompetent.

Although it's your choice whether you take an antidepressant, perhaps it would be a good idea to discuss with your doctor your reasons for not wanting to take medication.  Many problems that people have with their medication, such as severe side effects, can be dealt with by making changes in their treatment plan, such as altering the dose, switching to a different antidepressant or adding on a medication to counteract side effects.

  Your doctor will be better able to help you if you work with her to solve the problem rather than refusing medication altogether.


Arteta, S.  "How to Legally Declare Someone as Mentally Incompetent?"  Black's Law Dictionary Free Online Legal Dictionary.  The Law Dictionary.  Reviewed by:  The Law Dictionary staff.  Accessed:  October 19, 2015.

Menninger, John A.  "Involuntary Treatment:  Hospitalization and Medications."  Department of Psychiatry and Human Behavior.  Brown University.  Accessed:  October 19, 2015.

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