How to Stage a Successful Drug Intervention

How to Stage a Successful Drug Intervention

About 21.5 million adults in the U.S. become addicted to drugs or alcohol each year. There's nothing more frustrating or helpless than watching someone you love become a victim of addiction.

But don't lose hope just yet. One of the most important lifelines for victims of substance abuse is an intervention.

A drug intervention is a process intended to persuade someone who has a problem with substance abuse to seek help in overcoming their addiction. Intervention can be for alcohol or drugs like heroin. Those involved in staging the intervention are usually the individual's family or friends.

Meeting with the loved one face to face is not meant to be a confrontation, but rather an opportunity to encourage the addicted person to take their first step towards recovery.

Interventions are proven to be highly effective for addiction treatment.

Let's go through an overview of the drug intervention process--what it is, when it's needed, and how to go about doing it step by step.

What is a Drug Intervention?

A drug intervention is a planned, structured conversation between the concerned loved ones and the addict. It's often supervised by a drug addiction and intervention specialist.

During an intervention, the loved ones gather with the addicted individual to discuss the negative consequences of their addiction and present potential ways to find help and overcome the drug abuse.

A successful intervention can help both the loved ones and the addict express their feelings. Ultimately, the goal is to help the addict agree to some kind of recovery or rehabilitation.

Together with family and friends, the addicted individual can explore a long-term plan of support. Once the treatment is accepted, the individual can join a program for recovery and rehabilitation.

Why is it Necessary?

In many cases, the individual struggling with addiction can't accept the effect of drugs or alcohol on their lives. They may seek to justify their behaviors and deny that their difficulties may be in part caused by the drugs and alcohol.

For these individuals, a drug intervention provides the critical push that they need. The longer this behavior continues, the harder it will be to get them to accept treatment for drug use.

Holding an intervention is never easy. There are a lot of emotions under the surface for both parties--hostility, anger, frustration, and sadness.

But after a certain point, staging an intervention is necessary. Here are some of the consequences of addiction when it's left unchecked:

  • Contraction of diseases

  • Overdose

  • Long-term health problems

  • Organ damage

  • Hormone imbalances

  • Mental illness

  • Death

When to Intervene

One of the most damaging misconceptions about drug addiction is that intervention should take place at "rock bottom," or when the individual is at their lowest point.

Waiting that long could be a big mistake. By then, the individual might have gone too far and relationships might already be beyond repair.

Friends and family should start to consider an intervention if the individual's behavior has changed in a way that is alarming, as long as there is evidence that this is linked to the use of drugs.

Here are some signs that somebody might be struggling with addiction:

  • Unhealthy physical appearance

  • Insomnia or fatigue

  • Problems at work or school

  • Difficulty concentrating

  • Aggressive behavior

  • Sudden mood swings

  • Borrowing money

  • Mental health disorders

How to Stage a Drug Intervention

It takes a lot of thought and planning to put together a successful drug intervention. If you think your loved one might be struggling with addiction, this is your chance to change the patterns of abuse.

Here are some of the first steps you should take before undertaking an intervention.

Find an Intervention Specialist

The first step in staging a substance abuse intervention is getting into contact with a specialist. It's not a necessary step, but getting a professional involved is a great way to keep the conversation moving in a productive direction.

While people like family and friends might be the most invested in helping their loved one, they might be too emotionally affected by it in order to remain calm. A specialist also knows exactly what strategies to use in order to defuse potentially challenging situations.

A specialist can take a lot of the pressure off the affected family members and reduce the chance that confrontation will make the addicted individual react badly. They'll also help you make an informed decision about the kind of treatment and the rehab programs that are available.

While not a required step, a specialist can be essential to staging a successful drug intervention. They can help break the cycle of denial and create a recovery strategy that will work for your loved one.

Put Together an Intervention Team

It's important that an intervention involves all the people that the addicted person knows, trusts, and loves. Everybody on the team should have a meaningful relationship with the person they are there to help

An enlisted professional will help you put together a strategy, but you should figure out who is best to join the intervention and address their loved one's needs. People like parents, siblings, partners, and close friends are ideal.

You can also include the addicted person's children or elderly family members. Just be sure that they're prepared for the more intense moments that might occur during an intervention.

Stages of an Intervention

In order for the intervention to be successful, you have to have everything planned out ahead of time. A strategy is the most important thing going into such a tense, emotional situation.

Here are some strategies you should keep in mind before you start.

Pick the Right Place

The key to substance abuse intervention is good planning. It's important that you know where and at what time the intervention will be taking place.

You need to make sure that the addicted individual is in a good place to have a conversation. If they're under the influence of drugs or alcohol, there's a higher chance of an aggressive or unhelpful reaction.

Also, don't pick a time when they're excessively tired or frustrated. Make sure the individual has some time free and is in a good frame of mind.

In terms of location, you can hold the intervention at home because it's a comfortable environment where the individual feels safe. This may help spark a productive conversation.

On the other hand, doing it at home might cause the individual to associate the location with negative emotions. You can also choose to select a more formal location.

This will make it more difficult for the individual to walk away from the situation and it might lend itself to a more serious conversation. Try a location like someone else's house, a community center, or a church.

Plan and prepare

In order for the intervention to go smoothly, nothing about it can be improvised. You should create an exact script of what you plan to say.

Set the order of who should speak and when. Those who may have the most impact on the individual should speak first.

In each person's speech, they should talk about concrete examples of how their loved one's actions have personally affected them. The point of this confrontation is not to sound like you're attacking the individual--but rather to appeal to them from a personal standpoint about their behavior.

Make sure that you rehearse multiple times and that everybody knows exactly what to do and what to say, especially if things don't go well.

Another thing you need to establish ahead of time is a treatment plan for the addicted person. You or your specialist should have researched potential rehab centers ahead of time. Being familiar with the treatment program and making arrangements in advance can help the treatment process go quickly and smoothly.

Conduct the intervention

Begin the intervention with an affirmation from the team. It's important that the addicted person knows that everybody is there out of love for them and the desire to get them help. 

Explain that the purpose of the intervention is to help them understand that they have a problem and that the best solution for that problem is for them to accept treatment. 

For the next step, ask them up front: "Are you prepared to admit that you have a problem?"

If the addicted person says "Yes," then you can begin to make arrangements for rehab. However, the addict is more likely to respond with an objection. They might:

  • Deny the drug problem in the first place

  • Try to explain or justify the substance abuse

  • Refuse to enter treatment

  • Reject the intervention entirely

If any of the above responses occur, or anything other than an agreement then it's time for the friends and family to read their statements one by one.

Stay in the Moment

The moment of the actual intervention is going to be tense and emotions will likely be running high. Be mindful of your body language and your own emotional reactions while staging the intervention.

55% of our communication is nonverbal. Keep your body language warm and open. Don't fold your arms, cross your legs, or clench your fists. Make eye contact but don't glare or look intimidating.

You can practice this body language during rehearsals to make sure that you're getting across exactly what you mean.

Regardless of your drug intervention strategy, it's vital that you don't lose your temper. Anger, aggression, or intense confrontation will not work. Keep your tone and your language non-judgemental and don't accuse the individual of anything.

Remember, this intervention is about asking the loved one to seek help. Any harshness should lie in the consequences, not in the way you treat them.

Set Firm Consequences

Even as you're staying positive with your tone, message, and body language, it's just as important that you decide beforehand with your team what the consequences will be if the addict doesn't get immediate help.

These consequences could include eviction, the family moving out, removing financial support, revoking visitation rights with children, or even cutting off contact with the addicted person.

These consequences may be extreme, but the point is to demonstrate the severity of the situation they have created.

Although this intervention is an attempt at offering help, it's also an ultimatum. Be sure that this is firmly communicated during the conversation.

Be Prepared for Anything

No matter how much you script the intervention, it won't always go the way you expect.

It's often impossible to predict how the addicted person may react. They could say hurtful things, become defensive, or simply walk away from the conversation. 

Make sure your script is flexible. Be prepared for what your loved one might say or some ways the conversation could turn. Consider each scenario and have a plan in place.

You should also be prepared for the possibility of failure. Interventions aren't always successful, and sometimes the addicted person will refuse treatment. Talk with your team about what you will do if this occurs. 

Even if this happens, it's not the end of the road. Even a failed conversation is still a conversation, and now the individual knows how their behavior might be hurting others.

Don't Give up

Most importantly, you should never give up on the person you love.

Interventions can be long, difficult, and frustrating. They take a lot of planning and consideration, and it's an emotional burden on everybody involved.

Even if the intervention isn't successful, all is not lost. A confrontation could plant the seed for a change in behavior later down the line, or the message might not sink in until later. 

You can also try a second substance abuse intervention if the first didn't work, bring in a professional for help, or put other strategies in place to try again. 

Your loved one is worth a second chance--and the harder you work now, the better the payoff will be.

The Bottom Line

For a victim of drug addiction, the loving intervention of family and friends might be the only way to reach out and find help.

The sooner you start this intervention process, the sooner your loved one can start on the road to addiction recovery. This is an urgent matter, and it's important that you set a clear, firm message of love and support. 

Whether you choose to enlist the help of a professional or not, it's important that you learn how to stage a drug intervention correctly. You might just be saving the life of your loved one.