When it comes to substance abuse and addiction, we as a society are more reactive than proactive. Too often, a person’s substance abuse goes unnoticed, unchecked, or ignored until a disaster forces his or her loved ones to acknowledge that a serious addiction problem has developed and that something must be done about it. 

By then, the addicted individual may be dealing with health problems, legal difficulties, financial turmoil, and damaged familial relationships. Early intervention is the best way to stop a catastrophe before it strikes and can potentially save the life of your addicted loved one.

It’s Never Too Early to Intervene

Whether you suspect your young teenager is beginning to experiment with drugs or alcohol or you’ve noticed a regular pattern of substance abuse from your spouse, there’s never a bad time to step in and say something. The earlier you speak up, the more likely it is that the substance abuse will end there and not grow into something far worse. No matter how uncomfortable the possibility of a confrontation may make you feel, turning a blind eye is never the answer.It’s Never Too Early to Intervene

This is especially true during the early stages of substance abuse, when addiction has not had enough time to establish itself. The longer you let an addiction run wild, the more powerful it becomes. According to the Office of National Drug Control Policy, early intervention is one of the most cost-effective ways to address substance abuse and reduce its impact on society.

Tips for Early Intervention

Knowledge Is Power: Before you say anything to your loved one, be sure you’ve learned everything you can about addiction, the warning signs of abuse, and the dangers of continued usage. You want to know what you’re talking about before you say anything.

Find a Sober Time To Say Something: While it’s important to speak up as soon as possible, you want to make sure that you and your loved one are sober. This will allow you both to think more clearly and make it so your friend or family member can’t use your intoxication as a justification of their own.

Recommend a Screening: There’s a good chance your loved one won’t agree with your assessment of his substance abuse problem, especially if it’s alcohol consumption you’re concerned with. A screening for alcoholism with a physician will give you both an objective view of the problem.

Get Others Involved: You’re probably not the only friend or family member who has noticed your loved one’s substance abuse has gone too far. Work with others who are close to the individual to emphasize the severity of the problem.

Early Intervention is Key with Teens and Young Adults

High school and college students abusing drugs and alcohol have become somewhat of an accepted norm, if not a rite of passage, in America. Teenagers and young adults are among the largest groups of drug users in the nation.

You can’t afford to delay speaking to your young son, daughter, or sibling about the dangers of substance abuse if you notice some warning signs. It’s critical to stop the problem before it gets too far out of control.

Additionally, a journal within the National Institutes of Health found when adolescents and children develop a drug dependency, it’s worse than adults. They found that certain factors make them more susceptible to develop an addiction quickly. These are some of the factors:

  • Age 
  • Lack of maturity 
  • Dependence on family 
  • Acting out  because of age 
  • Lack of personality development

It’s these factors combined that intensify and shorten the period it takes to go from casual use to actual addiction. No intervention can end in an untimely death. In 2018, 4,633 young people died from a drug overdose. It’s better to have a difficult conversation about getting help than to attend a funeral. 

To continue, multiple studies show that America’s youth suffers from drug dependency. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that in 2017 11.2% of people did illicit drugs the month prior to the survey. Participants in the study were as young as 12 years old.

The Basics To a Substance Abuse Intervention 

  1. Prelude the intervention with a brief conversation. In other words, the intervention should not come out of nowhere. If a person who suffers from a substance use disorder feels blindsided by an intervention, it won’t end well. Preface it beforehand briefly to avoid this. 
  2. Choose a comfortable place to meet up. Meet with them at a place where they feel the most comfortable. The best place to meet is at a house. They need total privacy and will most likely bolt if they feel the pressure of outside opinions. Basically, this is an extra step to ensure they don’t feel attacked. 
  3. Ask them to meet up at a specific place and time. A substance abuse intervention won’t happen if there is no guaranteed plan. Do it when it’s comfortable for them and when they are sober. Make it as easy as possible for them to meet up. 
  4. Plan out what to say. While this doesn’t need to be word-for-word, it could be. It could be almost like a speech. Planning out what to say before an intervention steers the conversation in the right direction without leaving room to get angry and upset.
  5. Ask mutual friends and family members to attend. Each person should prepare ahead of time what they want to say. They should talk about how they’ve been hurt without getting aggressive. At the end of the day, drug dependency is a medical disorder. 
  6. Rehearse the conversation beforehand. A substance abuse intervention is a difficult thing to have. It’s bound to get emotional on both ends (and that’s okay). Yet, an intervention can go wrong very quickly. So, rehearse what to say to a friend or family member before you hold the intervention. 
  7. Hire a professional. Only a professional really understands how to hold an effective intervention.  

What to Avoid During a Substance Abuse Intervention 

It’s easy to point fingers and get upset during a substance abuse intervention. Moreover, an addict may have lied or stolen from someone they care about. It’s understandable that the person holding the intervention might be upset. However, an intervention that starts off on this note is bound to fail. Substance Abuse Intervention

There are certain things to keep in mind before and during a substance abuse intervention. It’s hard but essential. Avoid these “don’ts” to promote a healthy, effective discourse about a person’s addiction.

    • Don’t expect a calm reaction. An accusation causes someone to become defensive. It doesn’t matter if it’s right or wrong. Expect them to act irrationally and emotionally. Then, go from them. Tailor the conversation to align with this thought. 
    • Don’t point fingers. It’s tempting to insult a person who is suffering from a substance use disorder. Both parties are hurt and upset during an intervention. Avoid this behavior because an addict isn’t in control of themselves anymore. All they can think about is getting their next fix. That is what addiction does. 
  • Don’t avoid blame completely. There is a difference between pointing fingers and holding someone accountable. While they’re not in control of their drug dependency at this point, they are in control of other factors. They can seek professional help. An ultimatum can be powerful. 
  • Don’t think an intervention is the end. An intervention is a means to a beginning. Giving an ultimatum and forgetting about it doesn’t help. The intervention as a whole does nothing if there is no action afterward. Make sure to follow up after to see that they are sticking to what they said and getting help. 

In summary, an intervention can go wrong. It can destroy relationships. Keep these in mind to have a productive conversation to help them recover.

When Do You Need a Professional?

Talking to someone close to you about their substance abuse problems is emotionally charged and can quickly deteriorate into a shouting match if the conversation is not handled correctly. In most cases, the substance abuser will be defensive, and your frustration may show when you try to speak to him or her. When Do You Need a Professional?

Most people have only seen an addiction intervention by watching television and have no real-life experience. This is where a professional interventionist can be extremely helpful.

Using a professional interventionist will help ensure that everything goes as it’s supposed to. Your interventionist will coordinate the entire event, which includes determining who should attend, what to say and how to say it, and will also provide instructions on how to enforce boundaries and consequences. Statistics show that working with a professional interventionist can result in the substance abuser accepting treatment 90 percent of the time.

At Unity Behavioral Health, we provide professional intervention services while offering a world-class inpatient addiction rehab experience. We are a nationally accredited facility with 24-hour medical care, mental health treatments, and innovative therapies all at our patients’ disposal. 

Don’t wait for disaster to strike before stepping in and saying something. If your friend or family member is struggling with a drug or alcohol addiction, contact us today to learn how we can help.


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Speak to one of our experienced and caring representatives at Unity Behavioral Health to learn about how our rehab programs can help your loved one defeat addiction.


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