Many people with substance use disorder (SUD) experience denial. Because drug and alcohol abuse may worsen gradually, it is difficult for people to realize that they have developed an addiction.
When this happens, friends and family members often consider staging a substance abuse intervention, but do interventions work?
Here you’ll find information on interventions for drug addiction, including whether they work and how to prepare for a successful intervention.
What Is An Addiction Intervention?
A drug or alcohol intervention is a process in which a group of people lovingly confront a person with a drug or alcohol addiction in the hopes of helping them get treatment.
The purpose of an intervention is not to air grievances or assign blame, but to bring to the person’s awareness how their drug use has impacted their loved ones.
Ideally, the intervention ends with the person agreeing to attend an addiction treatment program.
Do Interventions Work?
There is no simple way to predict the outcome of an intervention.
Many interventions are indeed successful, inspiring people to seek a treatment plan to better understand their drug or alcohol use and receive related healthcare services.
However, substance misuse can also cause unpredictable behavior and make people feel defensive and angry.
As a result, some people do not agree to pursuing treatment options during the intervention process.
How To Maximize Your Chances Of A Successful Intervention
While you cannot guarantee the results of your intervention, you can take specific steps that will increase your chances of helping your loved one access the care they need.
Seek Help From A Professional Interventionist
Before holding an intervention, it is best to seek professional help from an interventionist.
Interventionists are third parties who are trained to help and educate the intervention team, guide the process, and step in when tensions run high.
You might search for an interventionist in your area through the Association of Intervention Specialists.
Alternatively, you might search for addiction treatment facilities that provide intervention services.
Pre-Arrange Addiction Treatment
If your loved one does agree to attend a treatment center, they should not be expected to research their treatment options on their own.
Drug addiction is an overwhelming mental illness that clouds thinking and makes decisions difficult.
Therefore, you will increase your chance of a successful intervention if you make the decision to seek care as straightforward and obstacle-free as possible.
The best way to do this is to pre-arrange a treatment plan for your loved one.
Before the intervention, research addiction healthcare options in your area, including different types of treatment such as detox, inpatient care, and outpatient care.
Ideally, your loved one will enter treatment immediately after the intervention ends.
Choose Specific Consequences
A key part of an intervention is for each member of the group to determine what they will do if the person does not agree to begin the recovery process.
Examples of consequences include asking the person to move out of one’s home or limiting contact with the person until they pursue treatment.
Rehearse Your Intervention
Emotions often become heightened during interventions, even during brief interventions.
To increase your chances of success and avoid being taken by surprise, hold at least one rehearsal for your intervention.
If you hire an intervention specialist, they can lead you through the rehearsal process and answer any questions you may have.
What To Do After An Unsuccessful Intervention
Unfortunately, even the most well-planned interventions may result in the person saying no to addiction care.
While you should hope and plan for a successful intervention, you should also have a contingency plan in case the intervention does not work.
Follow Through With Your Boundaries And Consequences
If your loved one does not agree to addiction treatment, follow through with the consequences that you set during the intervention.
It will be difficult to do so, but those consequences are vital for two reasons.
First, after experiencing these consequences, your loved one may change their mind and pursue effective treatment.
Second, if you do not follow through with your consequences, you are communicating that you will allow your boundaries to be disrespected.
Protecting your loved one from consequences is easier in the short term, but in the long term, it is enabling their substance abuse.
Prioritize Your Mental Health
Addiction is not a choice, and people dealing with addiction deserve as much empathy and respect as people dealing with any other type of illness.
However, this does not mean that your loved one’s addiction has not also impacted you. Your emotional well-being also matters.
Whether your loved one agrees to treatment or not, it is important to seek support for your own needs. This can include family therapy, individual therapy, or attending support groups.
Some well-known support groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and Narcotics Anonymous (NA) have corresponding groups for people whose loved ones experience addiction.
For therapy options, you can look for professionals who specialize in addiction or trauma, or you might ask your doctor for a referral.
Find Help For Addiction Today
Addiction is difficult, both for those who experience it directly and for their friends and family members.
If you or a loved one needs substance abuse care, contact Addiction Resource today for more information about treatment options.
Published on November 1, 2023
Addiction Resource aims to provide only the most current, accurate information in regards to addiction and addiction treatment, which means we only reference the most credible sources available.
These include peer-reviewed journals, government entities and academic institutions, and leaders in addiction healthcare and advocacy. Learn more about how we safeguard our content by viewing our editorial policy.
- National Council On Alcoholism And Drug Dependence (NCADD) — Intervention: Tips And Guidelines
- National Institute On Drug Abuse (NIDA) — Drugs, Brains, And Behavior: The Science Of Addiction
- Substance Abuse And Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) — Supporting A Loved One Dealing With Mental And/Or Substance Use Disorders