7 Tips For A Successful Drug Intervention
When planning an intervention, we suggest a careful approach should be taken – we’ve prepared seven tips to help assure a successful outcome.
1. Carefully choose who will attend the Drug Intervention
A varied and complex set of relationships with friends, family, and work colleagues can create a volatile dynamic when conducting a drug intervention. A person facing addiction will hide their addiction from some, joke or laugh it off with others, or in some cases may be open but play down the true seriousness of the problem.
A drug addiction intervention can be most effective when the closest and most trusted friends, colleagues, and loved ones – those the identified loved ones think to support them fully – are the ones bringing the truth to their doorstep. The person you love needs something to break the unhealthy pattern of thinking and behavior. A drug intervention accompanied by trusted friends and loved ones can do just that.
2. Get some advice from an addiction counselor
Getting some professional help and guidance from an addiction counselor at treatment centers or a professional with experience in conducting such interventions is well worthwhile and recommended in planning your intervention. There are professionals referred to as “interventionists,” but importantly, look for people with professional experience in addiction counseling, long work history in drug & alcohol rehabilitation, or professional qualifications or certifications in psychology or related disciplines.
3. Plan your communication and language well in advance.
Prepare examples of the behavior which is destructive and harmful. A focus on the behaviors and the impacts that these have on the members of the intervention team rather than accusations about the personality or character of the addict will typically help avoid escalating emotions or confrontation. Here are some detailed ideas:
- Be specific, detailed, and honest. Focus on statements such as “When you…. (behavior), I feel…. (emotions)” rather than statements like “You are….(a negative statement about the addict)”.
- Don’t be wishy-washy. Any wiggle room to deny the true impact will be exploited quickly by the addict. Given examples, times, consequences, and ensure they are examples that the addict is likely to remember clearly.
- Don’t exaggerate. A clear and accurate statement of your emotions and the impact of user behavior will resonate strongly with the addict and help break down the denial. Exaggeration of these, however, can further fuel the denial and create legitimacy in the mind of the addict in denying the behavior, and convince them this is just an unjustified attack on them personally.
- Emphasize love and care. It is important, with each explanation of the damage being done, to remind your friend, colleague, or loved one know, that your motivation in bringing this to their attention is not to hurt or shame them but to create a chance to help them recover – and that you, personally, are willing to help them with this. Explain to them how you are going to help – be specific.
4. Be ready for the denial, be ready for the anger, be ready for anything!
They say shame is to addiction what oxygen is to fire. An alcoholic or drug addict will sometimes go to incredible lengths to avoid the shame of their addiction outwardly, even if, deep down, a feeling of shame is already at the root of their problems and possibly even fueling their problem.
Consider the mindset of the person struggling with addiction and the precise time when you choose to conduct the intervention. A late-night intervention when the person is still heavily affected by drugs or alcohol is a high risk of missing the mark (if they even remember it the next day). An intervention planned shortly after the end of a binge or episode, however, when the after-effects are held in sharp contrast, and the addict’s mind is emerging from the fog, can provide an opportune time.
Talk through reactions that are possible from the person involved. Are they likely to deny? Are they likely to make counter-accusations? Are they likely to become angry or even violent? Discuss with your interventionist and amongst your team – how you will handle each. Focus on maintaining calm, minimizing anger, and bringing honesty to the process.
5. Prepare your thoughts on the consequences of inaction.
Someone in denial needs strong motivation to make the required change in their thinking and behavior. “We will be really disappointed if you can’t stop taking drugs” may not be sufficient for some addicts, but in some cases, it may be.
It is recommended to consider having your thoughts ready regarding concrete and demonstrable (unpleasant) consequences of them failing to change their damaging addictive behavior – BUT: it’s very important that you discuss how you may broach this with them. It is often best to give the addict the chance to embrace the intervention and voluntarily agree to get help BEFORE you introduce the idea of negative consequences.
Consequences might include withdrawing financial support, or removing access to a shared living arrangement, or their continued employment being at risk. This requires careful and considered planning as a threat to the addict can create a justification for resentment and rejection of the intervention, but despite this – it’s a good idea to have this as a backup plan if confronting the behavior is not enough on its own right.
6. Provide a practical, achievable way out.
Presenting a problem without a solution risks escalating emotions. Prepare your thoughts on what actions you need your loved one to take. Must they immediately cease their use? In most cases, this is the desired outcome. However, consider that depending on the severity of the addiction, a process of medical detoxification at treatment centers may be recommended. This is where professional help and advice is vital before the intervention group gets specific about the next steps required.
- Will you help them enter treatment at a drug and alcohol rehab? You should check costs, and availability before making a promise that cannot be fulfilled.
- Will someone offer the addict a place to stay – away from their day to day triggers, and triggering situations that lead to using?
- Will people visit, or spend time with them to support them emotionally in the difficult early stages of sobriety? Be ready to explain when, and how that will happen.
7. Follow up, and follow-through
If your loved one agrees to enter treatment centers, support them in this process. Their early days in rehab will be a very uncertain time and depending on the rules of the treatment center, a visit to offer support may be possible.
Keep in touch – after cessation of using drugs and alcohol, an addict is often faced with a situation where past relationships have already been damaged and loneliness and isolation are risky to the individual concerned. They may have been inactive addiction for so long, that they have forgotten how to maintain and nurture friendships and relationships, so being proactive and initiating contact with them at this critical time, will help them stay connected.
Accept and support decisions to avoid temptations and triggers – even where it means you may miss opportunities to socialize or enjoy parties or other events that may have resulted in them using in the past. Learning to live a life of sobriety is what they need, even if it’s not what you need. If they tell you they are planning to attend a party, a music festival, an event involving drinking when they are still in the early months of sobriety may be warning signs and you may be in a position to help them avoid these.
These tips are a great starting point in planning a drug intervention for someone you care about to help them get clean and free from active addiction. We strongly recommend involving professionals – particularly when the circumstances of the case are complicated and a lot of emotions are involved, as is often the case.
Further, if you have any questions, please contact GateHouse Treatment for assistance. We are available to you 24/7, and can be reached at (855) 448-3588.