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Intervention for an Alcoholic

Drug and Alcohol Intervention: How and Why it is Necessary

The National Survey on Drug Use and Health (SAMHSA) reported after its 2009 survey that 23.5 million (9.3 percent) men and women aged 12 and older were in need of illicit drug or alcohol abuse treatment. Of those 23.5 million cases, only 11.2 percent (2.6 million) of addicted men and women and drug and alcohol abusers were enrolled in treatment. Untreated addiction places a heavy financial burden on the general public and is a threat to society.

One can only ask why so few drug and alcohol abusers are enrolled in treatment programs. This is a question that persons who are not drug abusers ask with innocence. Non-addicts and non-abusers share the financial burden for this national epidemic. The question is more easily answered by substance abusers and those close to the addict or abuser.

Addiction has many psychological accompaniments. Denial is one of the most consistent of those characteristics. Addicts do not understand the consequences of their actions upon those around them and even on themselves. Addicts tend to find other reasons for the misfortunes that happen to them and their families. Job loss is someone else's fault. Legal issues are unfair and prejudicial. Financial problems are not caused by the addiction but by other factors like the economy or people at work. The addict does not regard his habit as compulsive. Everything is someone else's fault. This is denial. Add to this overwhelming trait the addict's stubborn insistence that they can stop using even after failed attempts at self-treatment and a crisis is waiting to happen.

How do we manage to get people in need of addiction rehabilitation programs into treatment? In many cases, the answer is addiction intervention.

What is Addiction Intervention?

Addiction intervention is a carefully-planned and coordinated process that usually involves family members, friends, co-workers, clergy and persons with influence who meet and confront the addict. Addiction intervention must be planned with precision and coordinated in order to be successful. A poorly conducted intervention can cause a negative reaction.

However, the positive effects of a successful intervention will result in the enrollment of the addict in a rehabilitation program and begin his or her road to recovery. In other words, a successful intervention will completely reverse the current trend of the sufferer's addiction.

In an addiction intervention, the chosen friends assemble and confront the addict, present their individual feelings, inform the addict of the consequences of the current trend and ask him or her to change their lives by entering treatment immediately, upon the conclusion of the meeting.

In most cases, the addict is surprised and often angry and sometimes hostile to those at the meeting. The addict may be in denial but he or she is most likely aware of how difficult addiction rehabilitation can be.

Recovery is an intimidating prospect and one very few addicts embrace. Usually, the person in denial is the individual who more fully understands the road ahead than the person conducting the meeting. For this reason, a professional interventionist is strongly recommended.

Necessary Steps in an Intervention

Every successful addiction intervention will include the following steps:

  • Presentation by participants of specific examples of destructive behaviors and their impact on the addict and their loved ones, friends, career and community.
  • Identify what actions each of the participants will take of the addict refuses treatment.
  • Offer a prearranged treatment solution that enables the interventionist to leave the meeting with the addict and enroll in a pre-selected rehab program at the conclusion of the session.

Arranging an Addiction Intervention

Successful interventions can take place at any time during the addiction. The meeting does not have to be planned when the addict is in desperate shape; the sooner the better. By delaying enrollment, the cravings will be more difficult to manage and the chances of relapse will be increased.

Every successful intervention is based upon several building blocks:


A family member, friend or co-worker or person of influence proposes an intervention and assumes an organizational leadership role. During discussions about the intervention, it may be deemed advisable to retain a professional interventionist, a psychologist, social worker, physician or expert in the addiction rehabilitation field, to lead the intervention and help coordinate it.

Because interventions can be explosive, accompanied by feelings of betrayal and anger, it is advised to enlist a professional who has been down this road before. The interventionist will discuss the role of each participant prior to the meeting. At the time of the intervention the interventionist will keep the meeting on message and direct input from participants.

If the addict has a history of violence, an interventionist should definitely be involved.


The participants will be asked to research the particular addiction, the treatments and signs, symptoms and effects of the addiction so that they can present in their own words the need for treatment.

Forming the Intervention Team

The leader of the intervention will work to select the most appropriate team members. These members will be respected by the addict and capable of expressing the seriousness of the impact of the addiction in clear terms. Usually, these people of influence have leverage.

Determination of Consequences

Unfortunately, the addict will not take this meeting seriously unless there are consequences for not entering treatment. Each member of the team will be called upon to state the actions they will take if the addict fails to enter treatment. These consequences must be expressed clearly with conviction.

Written Preparation

Participants in addiction intervention do not face this challenge every day. All participants will be asked to write down their thoughts and refer to their notes if necessary during the meeting.

Calling the Meeting

The addict will have no advance notice of the meeting. The meeting will be arranged at a time when all participants are ready. Members of the core team will individually state their views and express their concerns. The sufferer will be presented a treatment choice. Each member of the team will then express the actions they will take if the addict rejects the treatment. Because intervention meetings are rarely a straight line, the interventionist will keep the meeting on course.


The team members will pledge to provide added support once treatment has begun and after completion of the program.

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