Substance Abuse Interventions

Substance abuse interventions are often the last thing standing in the way of severe and lifelong consequences of addiction or alcoholism. In most cases an intervention occurs as a final effort to get the drug addict or alcoholic to realize how dire the situation really is, and exactly what is at stake. Unfortunately, interventions have been glamorized by Hollywood; most notably on the television show aptly titled “Intervention.” This show has been a disservice to the public’s perception of interventions in some ways because it is impossible to get natural human reactions out of people when they know they are on film. The Wikipedia entry for the television series writes of the participants:

“Their situations are actually being documented in anticipation of an intervention by family and/or friends. Each participant has an ultimatum: go into rehabilitation immediately, or risk losing contact, income, or other privileges from the loved ones who instigated the intervention. Often, other tactics are used to persuade the addicted person into treatment, which vary depending on the situation; some of these include threats to invoke outstanding arrest warrants, applying for custody of the addict’s children, foreclosing on the addict’s property, and break-up of marriages or other relationships.” (1)

However, despite the show’s popularity, interventions aren’t generally supposed to be based upon threats or promises of severe consequences, although these things are often very real. Nevertheless, many people who are forced into treatment achieve success, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse:

“Studies show that treatment does not need to be voluntary to be effective.” (2)

Unfortunately, the same cannot be said of interventions. The outcome of most interventions ultimately lay in the hands of the substance abuser or alcoholic, so mandating treatment isn’t an option. Therefore, the intervention must be conducted in a specific manner in order for the user to feel like they are in control of their own treatment. There are a number of issues that must be delicately but deliberately addressed by a skilled facilitator:

“For example, there are some issues associated with treatment compliance that benefit from a brief, systematic, well-planned intervention such as attending group sessions or doing homework. In other instances, brief interventions address specific family problems with a client and/or family members or deal with specific individual problems such as personal finances and work attendance. The basic goal for a client regardless of setting is to reduce the risk of harm that may result from continued use of substances.” (3)

Nearly all aspects of the intervention must be orchestrated by an expert counselor or facilitator. Having a professional who is personally impartial is a critical need because in most cases the family, friends and associates of the addicted individual have too much personal interest – and possibly anger or resentment – concerning the issue.

The facilitator must assess the situation and assemble all parties in just the right manner at just the right time. This may include making arrangements beforehand with the subject’s employer to allow them to take time off for treatment, coordinating the day, time and place of the intervention as well as discussing the process with each party that will be present, and arranging possible treatment options. In fact, the job of the professional interventionist is often quite comprehensive and long-term:

“In many cases, the interventionist facilitates not only the intervention itself, but the choice of drug rehab. Many intervention specialists also do case management and will work with the treatment program during the patient’s stay, help develop an aftercare plan, and work with any other parties involved (such as attorneys, courts, employers).” (4)

While the role of the facilitator is necessarily complex, the role of those in attendance isn’t any less delicate. The general idea is that each person will tactfully and respectfully discuss with the addict how their drug use and associated behavior has affected them, with the goal being to create awareness in the substance abuser about the impact of their behaviors. There should be little blame or finger-pointing – just frank, honest discussion.

Because of the harmful things that people in the throes of addiction can do to those around them, some people may not be able to attend an intervention. For instance, people that the addict hurt very badly and still have a great deal of anger or resentment toward the addict would create a negative environment and possibly verbally attack the subject. Other people who may be considered aggressive or violent or people who are actively using drugs themselves will not be present at an intervention.

There are a number of goals for an intervention, and the most obvious is to get the person into a drug rehab or other treatment center. However, the overall goal is to bring together the people who care about and are most affected by the drug user in one place to help the person re-evaluate their situation and the way they are living their life. By persuading the user to listen to their assessment of the situation and encourage them to make an assessment of themselves, the subject may come to terms with their state of denial and accept the proffered help. Narconon offers the following statement on interventions in a publication released in the United Kingdom:

“The goal of drug intervention is for the addict to accept the reality of their drug addiction and to seek help.” (5)

In most cases people transition immediately from the intervention into a drug treatment program. This can come in the form of a residential inpatient substance abuse program, an outpatient treatment center, or a day/night treatment or partial hospitalization program (PHP). In most instances these programs will be preceded by a detox program that will help ease the symptoms of withdrawal.

If you need help arranging an intervention to save the life of someone you love, please call the number at the top of your screen now. We can confidentially guide you no matter where you are or what time of day or night it is, and the consultation is absolutely free. Take action and call us right now.

(1) Wikipedia Intervention (TV Series)
(2) National Institute on Drug Abuse Treatment Approaches for Drug Addiction
(3) National Center for Biotechnology Information Introduction to Brief Interventions and Therapies

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