Drug and Alcohol Intervention It can be challenging to help someone you care about who is struggling with any kind of addiction. Occasionally, a heart-to-heart direct conversation can start someone on the road to recovery. However, when it comes to addiction, the addicted person typically struggles to see it and admit it. You may need a more focused approach. You might need to join with others and take action through a formal intervention.

An intervention can give someone the incentive to get help for these substance use disorders (SUDs):

  • Alcoholism (also called alcohol use disorder – AUD)
  • Illicit drug abuse
  • Prescription drug abuse
  • Compulsive eating
  • Compulsive gambling

Individuals struggling with an addiction are often in denial about their condition and are not willing to get treatment. Hard to believe, but they may not recognize the harmful effects their behavior has on themselves and others close to them. A formal intervention can help you present a structured opportunity to your loved one before things get worse.

Chapters Recovery Center in Danvers MA can recommend intervention specialists in the New England area. In addition, the Association of Intervention Specialists (AIS) hosts a member directory to help you find a credentialed interventionist near you. Interventionists also earn board certification as Certified Intervention Professionals (CIP), which shows they are trained professionals dedicated to a high standard of excellence.

What is a Substance Abuse Intervention?

An intervention for alcoholism or drug addiction is a process that is carefully planned and may be done by family and friends in consultation with a doctor or other professional. This may be a licensed alcohol and drug counselor or it may be directed by a professional interventionist. Sometimes it involves a member of your loved one’s faith or other people who care about them.

For the intervention, these people get together to confront the individual about the consequences of their substance abuse and ask them to accept treatment.

During the intervention, you should expect to:

  • Give specific examples of destructive behaviors and how they affect your loved one and their family and friends
  • Offer a predetermined treatment plan with clear steps, goals, and guidelines
  • Communicate what each person will do if the loved one refuses treatment
  • Communicate what loved ones will do if the individual accepts substance abuse treatment


drug and alcohol intervention

What is an Interventionist?

An interventionist is a trained professional who specializes in helping individuals and their families address issues related to drug or alcohol addiction. They help conduct interventions and plan the structure of these events so family members and friends can focus on confronting the person struggling with addiction in a supportive and non-judgmental manner. Interventionists can help make sure you have a successful intervention.

In general, a good interventionist has the following:

  • A professional understanding of drug and alcohol addiction and whether a particular treatment center or method of treatment will be better than another, and can explain why.
  • Knows when detox is necessary and how long for the particular substance.
  • Will put the needs of the clients before the needs and wants of the family (although they might be paying the bills). Interventionists must be direct and honest.
  • Doesn’t refer to only one type of treatment program. Must be ready to recommend something individualized or personalized for the client.
  • Keeps the financial needs of the client in mind to make sure that their referral path is comprehensive and leads to success in recovery.
  • Has a clear and explainable understanding of the differences between process addictions (shopping, eating, gambling pornography, etc.), substance abuse, and mental health diagnoses. Although these are different, they frequently co-occur. Clear ethical limits–don’t receive money or rewards from any treatment provider.
  • Visits and knows more than three treatment centers or approaches well. This means they can recommend the best center for the individual client to seek treatment.
  • They understand their skills and will refer or work with other professionals when necessary.

10 Signs That Someone Needs an Intervention

1. Substantial Increase in Alcohol or Drug Dependence
Your loved one needs a lot more alcohol, prescription pain medication, or their drug of choice to get the effect they’re after. You might notice they are getting a prescription filled more often or frequently buying extra beer or liquor so they “don’t run out.”
2. Deceptive Behavior
Individuals with an addiction will often try to hide their behavior. They may hide bottles of alcohol or show up at events already intoxicated so they don’t appear to drink too much in public. Or they may hide opiate prescriptions in unmarked bottles.
3. Deterioration in Personal Appearance
The one goal for an addict each day is to get the drug or alcohol they need. As this becomes more urgent, other needs get ignored. But, an addict will put a lot of effort into hiding their addiction, so a decline in appearance may not happen until the later stages.
4. Blackouts and Brownouts
There are periods that the individual can’t remember. Forgetting things due to their substance abuse problem is a sign that their usage is starting to affect their mental abilities
5. Financial Problems
Substance abuse is expensive. If they have an income but are now just getting by, they may need an addiction intervention. A drug addict is skilled at manipulating others to support their addiction but eventually, their substance use catches up to them.
6. Risky Behaviors
Impaired driving is one example of risky behavior that can affect themself or others around them. An arrest for drug possession or drunk driving could be a sign of a bigger problem, especially if it’s not a one-time incident.
7. Moodiness and Unpredictability
Irrational behavior and mood swings are common. They will often overreact to the slightest mention of their drinking or drug misuse. You can never predict whether they will be depressed, happy, miserable, hostile, etc.
8. Not Meeting Responsibilities at Work or School
Shunning basic responsibilities like going to work, picking up the kids, attending family events, and other everyday activities. At this point, their alcohol or drug problem has been prioritized over everything else.
9. Isolating Themselves from Others
You may notice that they avoid doing things they used to love and prefer to be alone. Often, they will narrow their social circle to other individuals who engage in substance misuse.
10. Displays Symptoms of Mental Health Disorder
Mild mental health issues seem to be getting much worse. Depression may become deeper or anxiety may become panic attacks or phobia. Sometimes, alcohol and drugs are a way of self-medicating for real emotional or psychological issues. This only makes mental illness worsen.
drug and alcohol intervention

Planning an Intervention

An intervention usually includes these steps:

Make a Plan
A family member or friend who intends to have a successful intervention will form a planning group. An addiction intervention is an emotional situation that has the potential to cause anger, resentment, or a feeling of betrayal. It helps if you consult with a qualified, counselor, addiction professional, or interventionist to help you get organized.
Collect Information
Members of the group should be fully informed about the seriousness of the addict’s problems and research the substance use disorder, as well as treatment programs. The group may begin to make arrangements to enroll their loved one in a substance abuse program.
Form an Intervention Team
The planning group forms a team that will personally participate in the intervention. Team members set a date and location for the intervention. They need to work together to form a consistent, rehearsed message and an organized plan. A lot of the time, non-family members can help keep the discussion focused on the facts and solutions. Don’t let the addict know what you’re doing on the day of the intervention.
Decide What to do if the Person Refuses Treatment
In case your loved one doesn’t accept treatment, each member of the team needs to decide what actions they will take. If you have been providing housing for them, you may ask them to move out, for example.
Prepare Notes of What You Want to Say
Each team member should describe specific incidents when the person’s substance abuse caused problems. They can talk about the toll the loved one’s behavior is taking while still showing concern and the expectation that they can and will change.
Hold the Intervention
Without revealing the reason, invite your loved one to the intervention. Team members will then take turns declaring their feelings and worries. The addict is then offered a treatment option and asked to accept the option on the spot. Each person will explain what specific consequences there will be if the individual doesn’t accept treatment. It’s important not to threaten a consequence if you aren’t ready to follow through with it.
Follow Up
Having the involvement of a spouse, family members, and others close to the person is important to help them stay in treatment and avoid relapsing. This may include changing patterns of day-to-day life to make it easier to avoid harmful behaviors. You could offer to attend family therapy sessions with them, get counseling for yourself, and learn how to deal if a relapse happens.
Remember, drug intervention needs to be planned carefully if it’s going to work as it’s meant to. An intervention that is poorly executed during the planning process may make the situation worse.

Hitting Rock Bottom

If a family member or someone else you care about is struggling with addiction you don’t have to wait for them to “hit bottom” before you do something. There is no bottom. It is always possible to sink lower if they can convince themself there is no drug or alcohol addiction.

Some people with a serious addiction go for many years denying their downward cycle into economic, social, and moral decline, so hitting bottom is an outdated belief. But many families still believe that their loved one has to hit bottom before there is any hope for the recovery process. They don’t consider that this belief just condemns them to years of unhappiness and frustration while they wait for the so-called bottom.

This should never be the first strategy. Only when every other plan of action has failed should you let someone fall off the cliff. A long time before that, you should be asking yourself these “What if”  questions:

  • What if family members got together with a solid plan for recovery in a loving environment?
  • Would they welcome the help and seek treatment?
  • Would things turn out differently for them and their families?
  • Would their relationship/marriage survive?

Alcohol and drug addiction is overwhelming. If your loved one’s life is worth it, review intervention strategies and consider speaking with an intervention specialist. You don’t want to wait until it’s too late.

What to Do After a Drug Addiction Intervention

If the person struggling accepts addiction treatment, congratulations. Now you can support your loved one by taking time to focus on yourself. You may want some counseling to help you come to terms with the effects of dealing with a loved one struggling with alcohol and drug problems.

Unfortunately, not all interventions are successful. You should prepare yourself for this situation while still staying hopeful. Be prepared to follow through with the consequences you presented. You don’t have control over the behavior of your loved one, but you do have the ability to remove yourself and encourage any other family members to do the same. Ask the other people involved in the addict’s life to avoid enabling the destructive cycle of drug and alcohol abuse.

Your intervention specialist can help uncover the underlying stressors in the family that could have contributed to the drug and alcohol addiction. They will help you build treatment options that include the whole family.

Personalized Treatment Options at Chapters Recovery Center

If you reside in the New England area, Chapters Recovery Center has addiction treatment programs that can be custom-tailored to meet the needs of each person struggling with alcoholism and drug dependence. We are prepared to provide treatment for addiction to illicit drugs, alcohol, prescription drugs, and addiction that is complicated by a mental health condition.