You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink.” How many times have you heard this saying? How many times have you said this? Have you ever really pictured it? You walk this large animal up to a babbling brook and try to force him to drink the water. The truth is sometimes you can’t even lead a horse without force, but even when you get him there, there is no possible way to physically force him to ingest water.

You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink.

You can force someone into treatment, but you can’t change their mind…

In Florida they have the Marchman Act, a rather frightening law that states that a private citizen can be forced to undergo treatment for substance use because someone else deems their substance use a problem. In other words they can be incarcerated; they can be stripped of their rights, but they need not have committed a single crime. Now I know what you are thinking… but this law is for their own good… right… and …you have to be able to prove in court that the person is truly addicted and harming him/herself, right…  but I ask you, who are the people making that judgment? What if this person is a wife who wants to leave her husband because she feels lonely and neglected due to his late night partying and excessive drinking and drug use? But she feels she can’t leave him because he is a successful businessman who has made millions, and she sees the Marchman Act as a means to control him while gaining unfettered access to his millions. True, he may be a complete self-centered jerk who treats her poorly, but he has committed no crime at all; he’s just a poor excuse for a husband but if this was a crime… well, you get the picture.

And when someone is subjected to the Marchman Act, who advocates for that individual? What has happened to this individual’s rights as they are found to have “…lost the power self control…” or their judgment is deemed “impaired.”

An official description of the Marchman Act is as follows:

“A Marchman Act is a means of providing an individual in need of substance abuse services with emergency services and temporary detention for substance abuse evaluation and treatment when required, either on a voluntary or involuntary basis.”

It goes on to say…

“An involuntary admission is when there is good faith reason to believe the person is substance abuse impaired and, because of such impairment, has lost the power of self control with respect to substance use; and either has inflicted, attempted or threatened to inflict, or unless admitted, is likely to inflict physical harm on himself/herself or another; or the person’s judgment has been so impaired because of substance abuse that he/she is incapable of appreciating the need for substance abuse services and of making a rational decision in regard to substance abuse services.”

Description take from

A movie was released in 2002 called Minority Report wherein people were arrested prior to actually committing crimes and everyone said that was outlandish, it could never happen… well, now it is happening via the Marchman Act and others like it set to pass all over the country. Listen to the wording, “…is likely to inflict physical harm on himself/herself or another…”  No actual crime need have been committed, but according this law, it only needs to be “likely” that it will happen at some point in the future. Not only is this determination entirely subjective depending largely on the prejudices, opinions and political leanings of a judge making a determination based on the descriptions of people who may have ulterior motives, but it is a violation of individual rights and freedoms on the most basic level. And furthermore, it is actually harmful to the very people it purports to be helping. Remember…

You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink.

People can be forced into treatment, whether by their employers, families, the court systems, or by a travesty of justice called the Marchman Act, but they can never be forced into making the choice not to drink or use substances to excess; as this choice, my friends, is totally up to them. Anyone who has tried to force someone to change a particular behavior knows this to be true. Can you make their lives so onerous, albeit temporarily, so they make the choice that living without their crutch of drink or drug is better? Sure, but that change is fleeting at best. For true lasting lifestyle changes to be made people must be moving toward a brighter future rather than running from a dismal past.