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Who Needs an Intervention?

Intervention is a powerful tool families can use to help their addicted love one enter treatment. The ultimate goal is to get the person to begin treatment for the addiction. A part of achieving that goal is an open discussion of the addiction and its negative effects on the individual, as well as upon each member of the intervening group. When a loved one’s addictive behaviors continue in spite of negative consequences, an intervention may be the best way to get him the treatment he needs.

Drug Addiction vs. Use and Abuse

Drug addiction begins when the use of a substance turns to dependence. In the beginning, drug use is often associated with something positive, like controlling pain after surgery or injury. Over time, as the need for more and more of the substance takes hold, drug abuse takes place in an increasingly negative emotional context.

These uncontrolled emotions that can lead to substance abuse include:
  • Boredom
  • Loneliness
  • Anger
  • Sadness
  • Anxiety
  • Fear
  • Depression

As abuse becomes addiction, more of the substance is needed to achieve the desired result. Abuse becomes compulsive, and the negative consequences of the behavior are no longer a deterrent. When withdrawal symptoms appear before the next dose is due or the substance is unavailable, drug dependence has developed.

>>> READ THIS NEXT: Start with Drug Detox


The Intervention Decision

Because it forces open communication about emotional subjects, deciding when to hold an intervention is never an easy. Recognizing the signs of substance abuse and determining when the behavior has become serious enough to require intervention is the first step. The National Institute on Drug Abuse describes addiction as a progressive, chronic disease.

Some of the symptoms of substance abuse include the following:

  • Significantly increased drug tolerance
  • Behavior aimed at hiding substance use frequency and/or amount
  • Seems to work all the time, but is chronically low on money
  • Mounting debt, especially when there’s nothing to show for it
  • Decline in physical appearance and hygiene
  • Emotional volatility or mood swings
  • Disruptions in sleep cycles and eating habits
  • Sharp rise in interpersonal difficulties, such as increased conflict with family, friends and coworkers
  • Legal problems related to substance abuse
  • Trying repeatedly to reduce use and failing
  • Failing to meet basic responsibilities, such as going to work or taking care of children
  • Endangering others, such as driving drunk with children in the vehicle
  • Failing to remember behavior, especially negative behavior, such as verbal or physical abuse of family members1

If you determine that a friend is showing signs of alcohol abuse, prepare yourself before taking any further steps. Harmful rumors or bad advice can alienate your friend and have possible ramifications that can’t be reversed.

According to the Mayo Clinic, interrupting the cycle of abuse is an opportunity to give your loved one a clear path to change before things get even worse.2 The sooner treatment is sought, the greater the likelihood of a positive outcome, and treatment doesn’t need to be voluntary in order to be effective.3 Sanctions or enticements from family, friends and employers can significantly increase treatment retention rates, and the ultimate success of drug treatment programs.

If your loved one is abusing drugs and his behavior is having a negative impact on his life and on the lives of those who care about him, it may be time to plan an intervention.

Professional Interventionist

interventionAn intervention should be a highly structured event to minimize the chance of the situation spinning out of control. Choosing the time, location and team members are an important part of the process, along with finding the right treatment program and arranging for your loved one’s transportation and admission. That’s why enlisting the help of in interventionist is so important.

Professional interventionists can help you and your intervention team plan what each person is going to say and rehearse the intervention. He or she can also find appropriate treatment for your loved one and arrange to have him transported there immediately following the intervention.

Using an interventionist is especially important if your addicted loved one:
  • Has a history of violence
  • Has a history of mental illness
  • Is likely to deny, minimize or rationalize the problem and erupt in anger to defend that position
  • Has been suicidal recently or in the past
  • Is using mood-altering substance(s) to the volatility point4

Understand that intervention may not work the way the participants hope it will. The substance abuser or addict may refuse treatment. Even if the addict does agree to treatment, this is just the beginning of the recovery journey.

Intervention participants need to understand that they can only do their best, with love and respect for the addict. Once they have done their best, they have to recognize that the final outcome is out of their hands. In the case of families with children, normalizing family life and keeping children safe is the highest priority, despite what the substance abuser or addict may choose to do about his drug abuse.

Finding Intervention Help

If your loved one is struggling with addiction and you feel an intervention is needed, we are here for you. Call our toll-free helpline, 424-387-3118, 24 hours a day to speak to an admissions coordinator. We can connect you with a professional interventionist and help you take the necessary steps to get your loved one the treatment he or she needs.

It is helpful to be guided by a professional on how to stage a family intervention for a loved one struggling with substance abuse or mental health issues.


1 Signs of Drug Addiction.” WebMD, WebMD. Accessed Oct. 10, 2018.

2 Intervention: Help a Loved One Overcome Addiction.” Mayo Clinic, Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 20 July 2017.

3 National Institute on Drug Abuse. “Preface.” National Institute on Drug Abuse, NIDA, Jan. 2018.

4 Intervention: Help a Loved One Overcome Addiction.” Mayo Clinic, Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 20 July 2017.

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