According to the Swiss legal system, involuntary admission is one of the farthest-reaching incursions into personal autonomy. The effect of compulsory admission in treatment of substance use disorders (SUDs) on variables such as length of stay or leaving treatment before recommended discharge remains elusive. In order to elucidate these effects, we retrospectively analysed the clinical course of treatment of 608 patients who were admitted between November 2016 and October 2017 to the Department of Addictive Disorders of the canton of Aargau.
Involuntarily admitted patients showed lower health and social functioning, as measured by the Health of the Nation Outcome Scales (HoNOS), compared with those with voluntary status. In involuntary admissions for SUD treatment, length of stay was significantly shorter and the proportion of patients who left treatment against recommendation was twice as high as in voluntarily admitted patients. Furthermore, if treatment was initiated on a compulsory basis, a subsequent switch to voluntary treatment status appeared to be very uncommon. We conclude that, at least in involuntary admission according to the Swiss legal system, these admissions do not lead to sustained inpatient treatment.