What Is an Intervention?

An intervention is a tactic used to determine an individual who is struggling with dependence or is displaying compulsive gambling or eating behaviour to ask for professional help to treat their addiction. Interventions are implemented by family, close friends or loved ones of the person who is affected by addiction, together with a doctor or medical expert. During an intervention, the family and the medical team talk with the person suffering from addiction and encourage them to enrol in a rehab programme.

Opening the subject of addiction with a person who is dealing with substance abuse or compulsive behaviour disorders can lead to an emotionally charged response; therefore, interventions should be structured before the meeting and carefully planned to be successful. Before the intervention, family or friends ask for information about treatment programmes, form a team of medical professionals, and identify potential consequences for the person experiencing dependence, if they refuse to enter a recovery process.

Interventions can have a high rate of success when planned accordingly. If poorly planned, the intervention may have an unwanted effect, the person with dependence might refuse to receive rehab treatment and might isolate from family and friends.

When Is an Intervention Needed?

The intervention tactic is used for various addictions and disorders but is also frequently utilised when people require drug or alcohol rehab or are struggling with compulsively addictive behaviours. 

Important signs that show intervention is necessary are: if the person’s close relationships, financial situation, social life, or work-life are being affected. 

Refusing to accept they have a condition that needs treatment or being in denial are two signs that an intervention may be needed. 

  • Alcoholism
  • Prescription drug abuse
  • Drug abuse
  • Compulsive eating
  • Compulsive gambling

When to Carry Out an Intervention?

When a loved one is experiencing substance dependence, these common elements might tell you that the addiction cannot be controlled anymore: 

  • increased tolerance for alcohol or drugs
  • a change in appearance
  • excessive borrowing of money
  • difficulties at work or school
  • irascibility and mood swings
  • deterioration in their health
  • secretive behaviour
  • legal or financial problems
  • a lack of motivation and an increasing indifference to activities that they previously enjoyed

If your friend or family member is exhibiting some of these signs and symptoms, then intervening is recommended. At this point, the individual with dependence needs professional help as they cannot quit by themselves.

Secretive behaviour

Compulsive behaviour and substance dependence often bring to the surface feelings of guilt, anxiety, or shame. Those who are suffering from dependence start to hide their addictive habits from friends and loved ones and become secretive. If they are suffering in secret, these individuals may experience worsening symptoms or even consuming more addictive substances than before. 

Secretive behaviour can be recognized easily in those people who display intensive negative emotions (agitation, anger, and defensiveness). 

Excessive borrowing of money

Borrowing money from close family and friends is something common. However, when a person with addiction is borrowing excessive amounts of money is a signal that something may be wrong.

Some addictions (drug abuse and gambling) can be expensive, and the more severe an addiction becomes, the more frequently a person may resort to borrowing money, leading to higher debts. When an individual is affected by addiction, that specific dependence becomes the focus of their life, and the constant need to abuse substances or fuel their addictive habit can lead them to ask for more money from family and friends. 

Other financial and legal difficulties resulting from addiction

Substance abuse changes an individual’s brain chemistry leading to compulsive behaviour such as spending all the money on their addictive habit. Spending all their savings on alcohol, drugs, or gambling can create serious debts.

After losing all their savings to substance abuse, they resort to fraud, theft, or different other forms of crime to find the financial resources to fuel their addictive habit. 

Mood swings

Mood swings occur when a person is suffering from food, gambling, or substance addiction. That person may be experiencing stress and anxiety related to their addictive behaviour. When the user is experiencing substance addiction, the mood swings are a side effect of the abused drug. Most drugs can make a person feel euphoric or deeply relaxed, but after a while, the substance changes the brain’s chemistry and the user starts to feel anxious, irascible, or even aggressive.

Bursts of unexplained aggression

When the individual becomes aggressive with no apparent reason is often a symptom of anxiety and shame. Opening the subject of dependence can be extremely difficult for those who are suffering and being asked about their addictive habit can feel like an accusation, which makes them defensive.

When a person is affected by addiction, it is also possible that the substance they are consuming makes them aggressive. Irascibility and aggression are side effects of many drugs, including alcohol and stimulants.

Losing interest in social activities previously enjoyed

Addiction can negatively impact a person’s life, leading them to become interested only in consuming the substance of their choice or hiding their addictive habit. This obsessive-compulsive behaviour can lead people to stop pursuing their previous hobbies and to become isolated or less interested in socialising. 

Poor physical appearance

Poor physical appearance is also a sign of addiction or addictive behaviour worsening. When people develop an addiction, they may lose interest in their physical presentation and hygiene. This also can be an early sign of depression as a side effect of their addictive behaviour.

People suffering from a compulsive eating disorder may also gain weight. These people may suffer from binge eating as well, and opening the subject about their addictive behaviour can be a delicate matter and must be conducted by a professional medical team. 

Difficulties at work or school

Addiction can negatively affect various aspects of an individual’s life, including work or school.

Those who are affected by addiction start being late for work or skip classes and begin neglecting their responsibilities as they fuel their addiction. Job tasks or school performance are also affected.

Health problems

Substance dependence and addictive behaviour can lead to severe physical and mental health problems.

Misusing prescription drugs can also cause health issues, or they can exacerbate pre-existing ones. 

Alcoholism can lead to cancer, liver damage, and strokes, the binge-eating disorder can lead to weight gain or obesity, and drug abuse can be fatal.

Tolerance to the addictive substance

The more of a substance a person consumes, the higher the risk to develop tolerance to that specific substance, meaning they need to consume more of that substance to feel the same effect. This may lead to increasing the number of drugs or the amount of alcohol they are abusing. However, as a person consumes more dangerous substances, the risk of overdose is getting higher, and intervention becomes a necessity.

Share your Concerns

An addiction intervention may have higher chances of success if participants express their concerns and compassion for the person with dependence wellbeing and health.

A common technique used before an intervention requires family members and close friends to write letters to the loved one affected by addiction. During the intervention, family members read the letters aloud in front of the person who suffers from dependence. This tactic helps family members to talk about their feelings without blaming or making any reproaches to their loved ones in need of support.

Be Supportive

An intervention for substance dependence should involve conversations that are sustained by love and compassion. Reproaches and negative comments can have the opposite effect on the person with the addiction.

Here are a few guidelines for those who consider making an addiction intervention:

  • All participants should be educated about addiction before staging an intervention.
  • Letters written by family members should keep a positive note, focusing on expressing feelings with concern and love. Family members should rehearse reading the letter before the intervention.
  • Interventions should take place in a neutral environment.
  • People invited to the intervention should include family members, close friends, and, in some cases, employers or work colleagues.
  • Set a specific duration of time for the intervention, about 60 to 90 minutes. Longer sessions may leave time for anger to rise to the surface and compassion to decline.
  • Schedule an addiction evaluation after the meeting.

How to Stage an Addiction Intervention

Before staging an addiction intervention, make sure you prepare yourself, your family, and friends of your loved one for this meeting. Here are a few steps useful when preparing an intervention:

  • Start by carefully selecting the group of people that you will invite to the intervention. Make sure you keep the group small for higher chances of success.
  • Include only those people close to your loved one, and who you know want to help your loved one during rehab treatment and recovery journey.
  • Ask all participants to think about what they want to share with their loved ones during the meeting and encourage them to speak from a place of compassion and honesty.
  • Remind all participants that the purpose of this intervention is to support their loved ones to enrol in a rehab programme. Criticism should be avoided during the conversation. 
  • Prepare to see your loved one getting frustrated, angry and, in some cases, denying that he or she is struggling with addiction. If your loved one knows about the intervention and is willing to attend, they may still feel uncomfortable during the conversation and may need time to decide to enter residential care.

Ask for more information

Call Castle Health today to request an intervention, and an addiction specialist can help you decide if the process is the right solution for your family and which are the next steps in your situation. In some cases, a formal intervention is advisable and Castle Health is here to help facilitate that for you.