Chances are that everyone knows at least one person who has a history of substance abuse and/or addiction. For example, in a study published in Nordic Studies on Alcohol and Drugs, researchers found that more than half of respondents have known about, and worried about, the drug use of someone they knew on a personal basis. Studies like this seem to suggest that it’s common for people to see the signs of addiction, and it’s common for people to wonder what they can do to help.
Thankfully, there’s a lot that concerned families can do, and each step they take can make a big difference for a person in need of help. Often, the most valuable type of help comes in the form of an intervention. It’s here that families begin to discuss what an addiction really is, what it means, and what can be done about it.
A Quick Definition
An intervention is, at its core, a simple conversation about addiction. The goal of an intervention is to help the addicted person realize the scope of the problem, and to accept the need for help.
Most intervention techniques focus on the family. That’s because families are under a great deal of pressure when an addiction is in play, and as an article in Alcoholism Treatment Quarterly points out, families often adapt to addiction pressure and amend and adjust their own behaviors. Rather than seeing an addiction as a disease, family members attempt to adjust their own behaviors. In time, that can mean that family members have their own sets of difficulties brought about due to addiction. They need their own care as a result, and an intervention can help them to heal.
There are literally dozens of different intervention types, but an article in Drug and Alcohol Review suggests that there are three basic formulas at play in most interventions. In one type of talk, the family tries to get the addicted person into a treatment program. In a second type, the family works with the addicted person in order to learn more about addiction, and that educational process leads the person to get care. And in a third type, the family gets help alone, and the changes the family makes helps prompt the addicted person to change.
Every Family Is Different
Since every family is different, there’s no one type of intervention that’s considered ideal for all people with addictions.
Some might benefit from one approach, while others might find a different tactic much more useful, but learning more about the different options available could help families to get started on addressing the addictions in their midst. The more families learn, the more empowered they might be to speak up and get their own talks planned.
Conversations about addiction don’t always have to be long in order to be effective. In fact, some of the best talks families can have take just a few minutes to complete.
Very short addiction interventions can involve nothing more than two people, a closed door, and some straight talk. The person holding the intervention can:
- Outline the signs of addiction seen
- Ask if the person is willing to accept help curbing drug use
- Explain how treatment works
- Offer to help the person to get treatment
This is a simple, powerful, and straightforward way to address an addiction issue, and in some cases, it can be a technique that prompts a person to get the care that’s required.
Families that don’t feel comfortable with this technique can take the advice of the National Institute on Drug Abuse and simply prompt a person with an addiction to visit the doctor for help. The idea here is to prompt the person to speak with a professional, undergo a few tests, and simply accept the advice the doctor gives. It could be an option for those people who don’t tend to believe their peers, but who might take the advice of a doctor more seriously.
There are a variety of different tests doctors might use in order to help diagnose an addiction. The doctor might simply interview the person and learn more about how the person feels about addiction and the concept of sobriety. The doctor might perform a few medical tests and point out how the results demonstrate that an addiction is in play. Or the doctor might just listen to the addicted person talk, and then offer support and guidance that could lead to enrollment in treatment.
These short, medical-based interventions are moving to the mainstream, as a study in Substance Abuse suggests that doctors are encouraged to perform short addiction interventions during every appointment they hold. Unfortunately, that same study indicates that few doctors are holding these interventions routinely. So families can’t simply hope that doctors will bring up an addiction issue in an appointment. Instead, families will need to ensure that the addiction issue prompts the visit, and that the medical professionals holding the appointment know that addiction is the issue to be addressed. That’s why it’s vital for families to discuss addiction before the appointment starts. They’ll need to make sure the appointment is as beneficial as it can be.
- Detail the changes they’ve seen due to addiction
- Describe how they’d like to return to a more supportive, healthy relationship
- Express a plea for the person to enter treatment
- Describe the consequences that might befall if the person doesn’t get care now
Those consequences can be mild, involving nothing more than a promise to stop funding an addiction or shielding a person from an addiction consequence. But it’s not unusual for families to suggest that they’ll shield the addict’s children by keeping them away from the addicted person’s life for good. Stricter consequences like this can seem cruel, but sometimes, they’re effective tools that can help an addicted person to change.
In addition to the consequences a family might outline, law enforcement professionals might have their own treatment mandates to hand down. For these professionals, continued substance abuse poses a public health threat, and they might compel a person to get treatment by prodding the person with jail time or fines. NIDA suggests that these sorts of prompts can be very effective in helping people to overcome an addiction, and that treatments provided under legal duress are just as effective as treatments received on a voluntary basis.
Few families want to see a loved one enter the criminal justice system. By speaking up early and often, they may be able to persuade the person to get care before it’s necessary for the authorities to get involved.
A study in the Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment suggests that the median recovery time from first treatment to last use is nine years. This means that people with addictions often go in and out of treatment multiple times before they get sober for good. This isn’t a failure on the part of the treatment facilities or the family. It’s the nature of addiction; it’s a chronic condition that is characterized by relapse. Often, that means families must hold more than one intervention in order to help an addicted person to really recover.
If you’ve held an intervention before and you see that the person you love needs another talk, you might want to try a different type of intervention, as the person may have changed due to the addiction care provided. If you’ve never held an intervention before, you may need to use a different type than you would with someone who has been down this road before.
No matter whether this is your first intervention or another in a long line of talks, we can help. At Black Bear Lodge, we can assess your situation and put you in touch with an interventionist who can help you to talk, plan and persuade your loved one to seek help. Just call us, and we’ll tell you more.