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Drug and alcohol interventions are effective and powerful tools if you wish to help your loved one get the help they need to overcome their addiction to addictive, intoxicating, and mind altering substances. However, if you conduct an intervention without due planning and oversight, it is highly likely that the situation will remain unchanged and - in some cases - worse off than before the intervention.

However, you can increase the potential for success by understanding:

  • The planning required to host an intervention
  • The different intervention models available
  • How to follow up after the intervention
  • How interventions work and what they are

With this information in hand, you should be able to effectively and successful accomplish your goals. Read on to learn more about interventions and how to host one for people suffering from substance abuse and addiction:

Understanding Interventions

In the context of drug and alcohol abuse and addiction, an intervention refers to the structured and goal-oriented process that loved ones, colleagues, friends, and family take to persuade one of their member to seek treatment and help so that they overcome their condition. The people involved usually take advantage of the intervention to ensure that the affected individual learns how their alcoholism or substance abuse - as well as the related behavior - has been causing adverse effects in relationships, in the person's health and wellness, as well as in their productivity.

To ensure that your intervention is successful, however, you should never use it as a confrontation. Instead, you need to see it as an opportunity to get the addicted person to accept assistance by taking steps to recover from their condition. You can do this by inviting a professional interventionist to act as an educator and guide before the intervention, during it, as well as in the post- intervention stages.

At a superficial glance, therefore, an intervention should look like a casually set up meeting where someone who is addicted to drugs and/or alcohol meets and sits down with their loved ones so that they can receive the help they need. On closer inspection, however, it is a formal, planned, and highly detailed meeting that should ideally take several days or weeks to prepare, create, execute, and finalize.

The preparation stage often includes:

  • Committing to maintaining healthy boundaries with the addict after the intervention
  • Contact with friends, colleagues, and family members as well as anyone else who is close to the substance user - apart from those they spend time with abusing drugs/alcohol
  • Contact with professionals, such as interventionists and other addiction treatment experts
  • Determining the consequences that will arise when the addict refuses treatment
  • Planning for treatment
  • Research and information gathering

To ensure success, the intervention should involve insistent and persistent communication with the addict to ensure that they accept treatment. However, you can also use the intervention as an opportunity to address many other concerns that go over and beyond the addiction, such as sexually, emotionally, and physically abusive relationships.

Importance Of Drug Interventions

Some of the people who struggle with drug and alcohol addiction understand that their substance abuse is causing problems and negative consequences. As such, they seek treatment without ever having to face an intervention.

However, many addicts are either unable or reluctant (due to denial) to realize that their substance abuse is responsible for most of the problems they are experiencing in their work, health, and relationships. Therefore, they may ignore all the risks and safety issues that are related to their actions and behavior while intoxicated.

Since it is so common for most addicts to refuse to seek treatment or to deny that alcohol and drugs have been causing difficulties and problems in their lives, interventions are necessary to get them to come to this realization. Additionally, an intervention can make them stop blaming other circumstances and people in their lives for these problems.

Additionally, interventions are essential because they may break right through the addict's denial and help them see and understand the effects and consequences of their substance abuse and addiction both in their lives and in the lives of their loved ones.

But when should you host an intervention? Some people believe that addicts need to hit rock bottom before getting the help they need. However, experts in addiction treatment have refuted and debunked this negative view.

In fact, it is highly recommended that you host an intervention as early as possible - even if you do so the moment you spot some of the signs and symptoms of substance abuse and addiction. By so doing, you may be able to help your addicted loved one seek treatment before their chemical dependency causes sustained damage.

If possible, you should also have a variety of treatment plans and rehabilitation options in place. This way, the affected addict can directly proceed to the rehab facility at the end of the intervention - if they accept the help you are offering, of course.

This means that you might want to secure spots in treatment programs and pack a bag ready for the departure of the addict immediately after the intervention. In case you have a professional interventionist present, they may even escort the drug user/alcoholic to the rehabilitation facility to ensure that they make it to the center safely.

Denial And Interventions

In most cases, interventions are seen as the tools required to deal with situations where the addict is in denial. Most people who actively abuse alcohol and drugs might not be able to see their actions as being problematic - even though they have already led to legal, employment, social, and financial issues in their lives.

The goal of intervention, therefore, should be to present information and knowledge to the addict - particularly with regards to the negative effects of their continued substance use - in the most straightforward and honest way possible. By so doing, you can use the intervention to move right past the feelings of denial by the addict so that they can understand their condition and accept it. This might also increase the likelihood of the addict agreeing to seek treatment.

Professional Interventions

With regards to staging interventions for loved ones who have been abusing alcohol and drugs, you might be tempted to try and do everything on your own. In fact, you might even wonder whether you need a professional intervention - particularly because you will basically be having a conversation with loved ones, family members, and friends.

However, even though interventions are conversations, there is so much more to it than just talking. In most cases, for instance, the addict might be in denial about their substance use disorder and any co-occurring mental health disorder. Similarly, they might react violently and angrily when you confront them about these issues.

This is why it is important to ask a professional interventionist to come along and provide you with guidance and help. These experts are trained and experienced - meaning that you can rely on them to ensure that your intervention proceeds smoothly. They will also help you give the loved one the best chances of making a choice to get the help they need.

Additionally, most interventions are wrought with deep seated feelings and emotions. With an interventionist present, it is highly likely that the conversation will stay on track and the addict won't find a leeway out of what could be a tricky, confrontational situation.

For instance, some participants might want to express the anger and hurt they feel toward the addict and their actions and behaviors. An interventionist will ensure that the conversation is not about any other participants and that this does not happen. After all, the sole purpose of an intervention is to ensure that the addicts accepts the help that is being offered and they agree to attend rehabilitation immediately after.

Additionally, your professional interventionist will work to ensure that there is no name-calling or accusations during the conversation. Instead, they will keep the central focus of the meeting on getting the addict to seek change, sobriety, recovery, and long term health.

Over and above everything else, it is highly recommended that you have a professional expert at your intervention. This is because most unmoderated interventions usually end up being counterproductive.

But exactly how do you find an interventionist? Most experienced professional interventionists have been trained and licensed. This means that they have the knowledge needed to help everyone participating in the intervention - including colleagues, friends, neighbors, family members, and other concerned parties. They will also work towards ensuring that the conversation is non-judgmental and helpful.

Apart from the above, your interventionist will also:

  • Help you with the pre-intervention planning and preparation
  • Act as a moderator during the intervention
  • Provide help in getting the addict to make the transition into a rehabilitation facility after the intervention succeeds and proves effective

Reasons Why Some Interventions Fail

Although many interventions are successful, some of them fail. The NCADD (National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence) reports that more than 90 percent of the addicts who attend professional interventions end up committing to treatment and rehabilitation. However, others will still refuse the help that is offered.

Here are some of the reasons why your intervention might fail:

a) Planning

For one, you might not plan your intervention properly. If you are improperly prepared, many things might go quite wrong during the actual meeting.

b) Safety

In the same way, if you host an intervention in a space where the affected individual is not safe, they might refuse treatment. This means that you should never approach a loved one in public or anywhere else where they might feel uncomfortable and vulnerable. Instead, you should consider looking for a venue where they are more likely to be receptive to the intervention. This could maximize the chances of the meeting being successful.

c) Intoxication/Withdrawal

Additionally, if you stage an intervention when the addict is seriously intoxicated or when they are experiencing severe withdrawal, it is highly unlikely that you will succeed. Although you might have a hard time finding the addict in a state of sobriety - especially if their substance abuse disorder and any co-occurring mental health condition are adverse and severe - you should try and approach them when they are in a good frame of mind. This way, they will be better placed to process the information provided and make sober decisions.

d) Ganging Up

If you decide to stage a surprise group intervention, the addict might feel intimidated by the sheer number of people present. This is why it is highly recommended that you first approach the addict one on one to inform them that you will be talking to them.

e) Judgement

On the other hand, if you come at your loved one with shame, blame, anger, and judgement, it is likely that the intervention will fail. In fact, being aggressive, confrontation, and defensive might make them even more confrontational and defensive than they would otherwise have been. In fact, most interventions succeed when loved ones provide non-judgmental assurance, understanding, patience, shows of love, and compassionate support.

f) Follow-Up

If you fail to follow-up properly, it is highly unlikely that you will be successful. Even after finishing the intervention and the addict agrees to seek help through addiction treatment and rehabilitation, they might still not be ready to enroll that very instance. This means that they may continue drinking and abusing drugs and never even get to follow through with treatment. This is why you should follow up as soon as possible after the intervention to ensure they check into a rehab facility.

g) Professional Help

On the other hand, if you do not seek professional help, then your intervention might fail. Although some interventions are effective and successful only with support from friends and family, you might find that having professional assistance from an expert interventionist will raise the rates of success.

Apart from the above, the NCADD recommends that friends and family members seek the help and support of an addiction and intervention specialist when the concerned loved one:

  • Displays the classic signs and symptoms of severe mental health disorder
  • Has a history of aggressiveness and violence
  • Has been taking a variety of mind altering and intoxicating substances
  • Is suicidal or depressed

Who Needs An Intervention?

In most cases, interventions are hosted when an addict is in denial - making such addicts the best candidates for these meetings. Healthy People reports that over 95% of all substance abusers may not even realize that they even have a drug and alcohol problem.

However, some might not be in denial but might fear that undergoing treatment means that they will have to undergo withdrawal and endure the sometimes painful and excruciating symptoms that come with suddenly quitting drugs or drastically reducing the dosage they are accustomed to. This is because many addicts hear horror stories about what happens when one quits or may have experienced withdrawal several times in the past.

In the same way, people who are struggling with dual diagnosis - characterized by substance use disorder and a co-occurring mental health condition - are often in conflict about whether they should seek addiction treatment or not. This is because they might have the luxury that comes with clear thought. When they do, it might be difficult for them to even trust these thoughts. According to NAMI, more than 37% of alcoholics and 53% of drug addicts also live with severe mental health disorders.

Additionally, if the addict is suffering from such mental health problems like borderline personality disorder or bipolar disorder might accept treatment one day before refusing it a couple of hours or days later. This behavior is typical of many addicts - particularly those who have mental health conditions. Therefore, it is imperative that you act quickly during the intervention process.

In case you suspect that a loved one is addicted to alcohol and/or drugs and that they might require an intervention before they seek treatment, you should look out for the following signs and symptoms:

  • Abusing drugs and alcohol to avoid experiencing withdrawal
  • Appetite and weight fluctuations
  • Deep-seated inability to stop abusing drugs or to cut back on their use
  • Distancing themselves from the social activities they once enjoyed
  • Financial and/or legal problems arising from their substance abuse
  • Mood swings
  • Preoccupation with abusing drugs and maintaining a constant supply of their preferred substance
  • Tolerance to intoxicating and mind altering substances

NIDA (the National Institute on Drug Abuse) reported in 2012 that there were more than 23.9 million Americans currently using intoxicating and mind altering substances. For most of them people, only a professional intervention can provide the assistance they require.

However, you might first want to talk to a professional interventionist and ask them to help you choose the best type of intervention that the addict in your family or social circle might require.

You should also carefully think about the process of helping your addicted loved one to see the impact of their chemical dependence and get them into a treatment facility. This is because every minute that passes by is an opportunity for them to get cold feet, change their mind, or even take a more drastic action - such as running away or trying to commit suicide.

It would also be useful if you could get them professional interventionist to take charge of transporting your loved one to the treatment facility when they agree to seek help and start on the journey to recovery.

If the patient has to be on a long flight or car ride to the rehabilitation center, they might get more time to try and convince the loved one who is accompanying them that they don't need treatment. They might also play on the emotional awareness of the loved one and try to divert them from the agreed-upon rehabilitation plan.

Intervention Planning And Staging

Knowing what an intervention is and what it tries to achieve is quite easy. However, you might have a bit of difficulty trying to develop and arrange one. Although the complexity might seem overwhelming, getting a professional interventionist to help you and following certain established and long-standing principles and steps might improve the chances that the outcome will be desirable.

From the onset, therefore, you should make a conscious decision to employ expert interventionists to help you out. These experts are highly trained, experienced, and licensed to help in most of the aspects of an intervention - all the way from the planning stage to the actual meet-up and ending with the follow-up care. To this end, you can always count on their experience to ensure that your plan is more efficient and that their skills help mediate them meeting.

Additionally, having a professional interventionist present during the actual session could increase the chances of success. It might also ease any stress that you might experience as you try to organize an intervention.

That said, whether you plan an intervention with an interventionist or without one, the steps you should follow are quite standard and include:

1. Create the Group

Start by creating the group. This means that you should form a team that can work together for the benefit of the addict among you. Everyone present should be united and able to speak in one voice about their shared love and concern for the substance user. Some examples of people you might want to invite include coworkers, family members, friends, and anyone else who is currently in the life of the addict or used to be.

Of course, participation should be entirely voluntarily. If possible, only choose candidates that you are sure that the intervention target loves, obeys, and respects. This means that you should avoid anyone who might trigger feelings of frustration, anger, or regret in the addict. Similarly, you should not invite people who tend to be highly emotional and who might not - as a direct result - not focus on the intervention.

After forming the group, you should appoint the speaker or the liaison - who could be a closed loved one or a professional interventionist. The liaison will take charge, lead the group, and work towards the success of the session.

2. Research and Collect Information

Most people are completely unable to combat anything unless they understand it. This is why you should put in the hours required to gather information and research. In case there are people in the group who do not understand substance abuse, co-occurring disorders, chemical dependence, and addiction, then it is highly likely that the intervention might fail.

To ensure that this does not happen, consult trusted sources to get more information about intervention, the particular substances your loved one has been abusing, and treatment options. This way, you will get many helpful tips that you can use to make a decision about the course of action to take.

3. Make a Goal

After everyone understands the condition that you are intervening in, you should assemble the group and create a goal for the intervention. As far as possible, ensure that the goal is timely, realistic, clear, and specific.

If you do not establish a goal or a purpose for the intervention, you won't be able to tell whether the session was successful after it happens. Even if you don't have a professional interventionist helping you out, you still need to take this opportunity to talk to other drug, alcohol, and mental health specialists to get feedback on the goal you have set.

4. Plan the Intervention

At this point, you will discuss the specifics of the intervention session, including but not limited to:

  • How to get the addict to attend
  • The participants
  • The topics of conversation to be discussed
  • The venue

You need to pay particular attention to every aspect of the above because any problem that arise might end up derailing the entire session. If possible, you should host the intervention at home - which might work out perfectly if the addict is safe and calm.

However, if you think that there is a high probability that the intervention will escalate or that there will be an increased risk of violence and aggression, you may want to host the intervention at the most neutral location you can find.

Everyone you invited to the intervention should attend - unless they might disrupt the final outcome. On the other hand, many addicts tend to be unpredictable and secretive. This means that you might have a difficult time getting them to the venue of the intervention. In such situation, you should consider being deceptive - which is one of the few cases where lying might work because it will be done from a place of love and care.

5. Plan the Message

Next up, you need to ensure that every participant knows exactly what they should say. Although this might prove to be something of a challenge, you should ensure that it works. As far as possible, for instance, you might want to check and confirm that the content and the tone is just right and that it accurately conveys the message to ensure that the addict does not deny what is being said.

You should also strive to base all the messages on fact - particularly those that tie to strong emotions. A god way to accomplish this is by using assertive communication with I messages.

These messages comprise statements that express feelings as well as the triggers of these feelings before explaining the change that is desired. For instance, you can say "I feel sad when you continue abusing marijuana in spite of the serious effects it is causing in your professional life and our relationship/interactions. I sincerely hope that you are going to take this seriously and consider checking into rehab."

6. Anticipate Worse Case Scenarios

Irrespective of the model of intervention you use, there are always chances that the addict might refuse to seek treatment when all is said and done. The best, most interventions also plan for such scenarios.

To this end, you might want to have a counter-plan that is highly detailed and revolves around what is going to happen if the addict does not accept the treatment and assistance you are offering.

In some cases, this might involve ending your relationship with them. Alternatively, you could place sanctions and limitations of housing or finances. Other drastic measures include reduced communication, expulsion, and more.

Although this might seem like a harsh step to take, you should remember that the goal of the intervention is to avoid harming the addiction while also ensuring that the participants are protected.

This means that you should set strict limits and threats that you are serious about carrying out while at the same time striving to make addiction treatment and rehabilitation as attractive to the substance user as possible.

Overall, the ultimate goal of your intervention would be to get the addict to choose treatment and enroll into a rehabilitation program. If possible, therefore, you should pick a facility beforehand and register the addict so that they can proceed to it immediately following intervention.