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Drug addiction intervention refers to family or friends stepping in to speak to a drug user about their situation. Effective drug addiction interventions also include a trained intervention specialist. Intervention specialists can help prevent conversations from becoming too emotionally charged. They also know how to structure an intervention to offer the best support. Interventions happen because a family member or friend recognizes a situation is out of control. They want to help, by intervening in the life of someone addicted to substances with the hope of positive change.

Interventions must highlight specific examples of destructive behavior. This includes how addiction affects loved ones. They must also outline a treatment plan which includes clear and achievable actions and goals. Finally, an intervention highlights the consequences of refusing treatment. Not just for the individual, but for their families too.

Related Reading: Understanding Addiction

When Should You Intervene?

Knowing how to support an individual struggling with addiction or alcoholism is tricky. If you do nothing, you could be enabling the behavior. The possibility of painful withdrawal symptoms could put you off. This could be because you’ve seen your loved one go through withdrawal before. But, it could also be because you have seen portrayals of drug use in the media. These often do not give a full or accurate picture of how positive and empowering the right addiction recovery treatment can be.

Related Reading: Am I an Enabler?

Knowing when to intervene in a drug user’s life is not an exact science. The right time for intervention can depend on:

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  • How long the individual has struggled with addiction
  • How problematic the behavior is
  • How large or small the individual’s support network is
  • How often or how severely they use substances
  • The type of addiction or severity of alcoholism
  • How in denial they are about their addiction

People close to the individual are often the most qualified to choose the intervention time. This is especially true if there’s a person the individual talks to about their drug use. It can be much more difficult if the individual is not open about their problem. In instances like these, you may need to look out for signs that it’s time to intervene. Some signs to look out for that it’s time to step in include:

  • Secretive behavior
  • Lying about their habits or where they go
  • Unexplained absence from work or social activities
  • Loss of interest in activities they used to love
  • Financial issues or suddenly needing to borrow money
  • Unexplained lack of energy or motivation
  • A decline in personal hygiene
  • Doesn’t care about appearance
  • Aggressive or destructive behavior
  • Personality changes or extreme mood swings

How Does an Intervention Work?

There are several methods for a successful drug addiction intervention. The Johnson Intervention1 model focuses on the individual and how caregivers or a social network can support that person. Johnson Interventions involve three separate sessions. The first two sessions are about gathering family and/or friends together to plan the intervention. This may include:

  • Discussing the individual’s habits
  • Finding out if there are other people who could assist with a positive intervention
  • Discussing the dangers of enabling behavior and the importance of intervention
  • Problem-solving strategies
  • What to discuss at the intervention including specific examples of problematic behavior

Including a professional intervention specialist in these planning sessions is essential. Professional interventionists know how to structure an intervention correctly. This allows it to serve the needs of both the individual and their family and friends.

The third session is where the support network confronts the individual about their addiction. This drug addiction intervention is normally a surprise to the individual. Surprise interventions may prevent individuals from having time to plan dishonest answers to questions to hide the extent of their issue. For example, they may have been absent from work due to drug use. Given time, they could construct elaborate reasons they couldn’t go to work. When the intervention is a surprise, they are more likely to be honest and give straight answers.

In contrast to this, some drug addiction interventions may be invitational. These may be more effective if the individual has recently started to show problematic behaviors or surprise interventions have caused an adverse reaction in the past. Invitational interventions involve the individual during the entire process. They understand why the intervention is taking place and why their families engaged the support of a professional.

In all instances of intervention, regardless of the style, a few key aspects are important.

  • Always engage an intervention specialist. A family who attempts an intervention without a specialist may struggle to structure the intervention in a useful manner.
  • Intervention teams must plan the drug addiction intervention carefully. Curate specific examples of behavior to highlight why drug use has become problematic or dangerous. Talk about the actions, goals, and consequences you want to discuss. Make sure the intervention takes place somewhere the individual will feel safe to open up.
  • If a member of the intervention team feels they can’t speak without getting angry, consider writing a letter. Writing out calmly the facts of the situation can prevent an emotional outburst. Let members of the intervention choose the best way to communicate.
  • Ensure the intervention is only about addiction. Dragging in aspects of other behavior, past events or unrelated relationships or family issues is damaging. Stay focused on the addiction and its impact on the group.
  • Make sure the intervention is care-focused. This means focusing on what help, support, and ultimately, recovery treatment you want for the individual. Be assertive, but not aggressive or hurtful. Treat the individual with compassion and understanding.
  • Interventions have the goal of encouraging individuals to seek treatment. Ensure consequences are set should the individual refuse treatment. There should also be clear incentives to seek treatment.
  • To support this, make sure you’re aware of what the options for treatment are. You can discuss these with your intervention specialist. This ensures you’re discussing treatment options that are appropriate for the individual. Don’t suggest treatment options you know they will reject. This can cause resentment and make the problem worse.

Interventions show individuals struggling with drug use the extent of the damage their addiction is causing. The hope is that their empathy and love for friends and family will inspire them to make a positive choice. The goal is to seek treatment, if not for themselves, then for the important people in their lives.

Best Strategies for a Drug Addiction Intervention

Here at Cardinal Recovery, we understand the importance of family and friends in any recovery process. Addiction and alcoholism can have a profound effect on families, which is why we provide a wide range of Family Therapy options to support everyone affected by drug use.

Do you know someone who needs support with addiction or alcoholism? We support families in how to approach individuals for a constructive and compassionate outcome that leads to effective treatments. Call (855) 928-1987 today for a non-judgemental conversation about the support that’s right for you and your loved one.

Despite the importance of support from family, without support from a professional, interventions can be damaging if not handled correctly. Families who focus solely on negative aspects of the individual’s behavior and become angry or over-emotional can push a drug user further into addiction2

  • Don’t attempt a spontaneous intervention. Interventions should be carefully planned. Contact a specialist for assistance.
  • Plan the intervention so the individual is as lucid as possible. They may not be receptive while under the influence of substances. Likewise, if they are going through a period of involuntary withdrawal, they may be hostile towards any intervention.
  • This means doing your research to try to understand their habits.
  • It also helps to understand the facts about the addiction the individual is struggling with.
  • Rehearse the intervention. Make sure everyone involved knows what they will say. Plan for how you will deal with upsetting situations. Discuss this with your specialist interventionist.
  • Try not to get angry during the intervention.
  • Listen to the individual with compassion and respect.

A successful drug addiction intervention leads to treatment that benefits the individual and their family and friends too. It shows how positive seeking recovery can be. Recovery leads to better career prospects, better personal relationships, and better enjoyment of everyday activities. Research shows that interventions that include life aspects that the individual enjoys are often very successful. These occupation-based interventions3 may point out the impact drug use is having on work, sports teams, or hobbies. Intervention groups can use those factors to create meaningful goals for the individual concerned.

Knowing how to approach an individual struggling with addiction is difficult and fraught with emotion. Are you ready to intervene and improve the life of someone you love? Call Cardinal Recovery on (855) 928-1987 now for a 15-minute assessment with a member of our friendly team. We never judge, and treatment and recovery options are focused on the needs of the individual for a fully customized approach. We’re ready when you are.


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