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What Is Drug Addiction Intervention?

Learn about addiction intervention, effective methods, and what a successful intervention looks like here.

What is Drug Intervention?

A drug addiction intervention can be a vital first step in the treatment of drug abuse and addiction. It requires a team that is typically overseen by an intervention specialist. The goal of a drug intervention is to help someone who is struggling with a substance use disorder to receive treatment.

There are a variety of intervention strategies and programs, but they all strive for the same goal: sobriety.

What is an Intervention?

An intervention for substance use disorders is an approach that aims to reduce harm, improve safety, and promote better health and wellness. Those who support the use of intervention methods believe in using “positive peer pressure” to make an individual seek treatment.1

Who Should Be on the Drug Addiction Intervention Team?

Typically, a family member or close friend proposes an intervention and forms a planning group. It is best to consult with a qualified professional counselor or interventionist to help organize an effective intervention. An intervention can be a tense and emotionally-charged event, so the employment of an intervention specialist to act as a mediator is recommended.

Team members set a date and location and work together to present a consistent, rehearsed message and a structured plan for confronting the person struggling with addiction. Those present then share how their loved one’s addiction has had negative impacts on their lives and implore them to enter treatment. It is important that the members of the intervention team are people who are close to and important in the life of the individual. Do not include members who might sabotage the intervention. 2

What are the Main Goals of Drug Addiction Intervention?

The main goals of a drug addiction intervention include making sure that the loved one in question:

  • Agrees to immediately stop abusing drugs
  • Is confronted with the truth about their drug addiction
  • Is shown love, empathy, and compassion
  • Is presented with various treatment and assistance options
  • Enters into a treatment program

How to Perform a Drug Addiction Intervention

There are numerous important factors to consider when conducting an intervention. These necessary steps include:

  • Get help: Make sure to ask for help and support from friends, families, and medical professionals.
  • Make a plan: Make sure to have a plan in place before staging the intervention.
  • Gather information: Get all statements from loved ones and treatment information ready beforehand.
  • Form the intervention team: Choose members of the intervention team carefully.
  • Prepare notes: Determine the most important things to say during the intervention and write them down.
  • Offer help: Remember that the person is struggling and that they need help. Be sure to remind them that you are intervening to help them.
  • Set boundaries: Boundaries should be set for both the team and the loved one in question.
  • Schedule the meeting: Set up a time and that suits everyone and ensures that your loved one will be available.
  • Follow-up: Intervention is only the first step on the journey to recovery. Follow up with your loved one and make sure they are still receiving the help they need.

Different Types of Drug Addiction Intervention

As mentioned previously, there are various types of drug addiction intervention methods, several of which are detailed below.

Crisis Intervention

Crisis intervention is a short-term (usually single session) technique used to address an immediate mental health emergency, stabilize the individual in crisis, and create and implement a safe, appropriate plan for the next steps and future treatment.4

Brief Intervention

Definitions of brief interventions vary. In the recent literature, they have been referred to as simple advice, minimal interventions, brief counseling, or short-term counseling. They can be simple suggestions from a professional to reduce consumption, (e.g., social worker, nurse, alcohol and drug counselor, physician, physician assistant) or a series of sessions provided within a treatment program. Brief interventions, therefore, can be viewed as a set of principles regarding interventions that are different from, but not in conflict with, the principles underlying conventional treatment. 5


This is an alternative method to the Johnson Institute’s “Intervention” that is less confrontational, thereby avoiding the reactivity in clients and family members that such confrontational approaches have tended to evoke. It takes into account both the needs of the chemically dependent person as well as the needs of the more prominent family and network system. ARISE is aimed toward enrolling people who struggle with substance abuse in either inpatient or outpatient treatment.6


SMART Recovery is a group-based, volunteer-led recovery model offering support meetings, skill learning, and scientifically based treatments to help participants overcome addiction.7

The Johnson Model

This intervention method aims to catalyze a person’s entry into a treatment program. Although there is no substantive focus on the caregiver’s well-being, the caregiving burden may be reduced if professional help can be accessed and utilized.8

Is a Professional Interventionist Helpful?

It is always recommended to seek professional assistance, even when the case seems minor. However, if professional aid is not directly available due to financial or other constraints, try to get as much professional advice as possible.

San Diego Detox Addiction Treatment Programs

There are various addiction treatment programs available. However, remember that drug addiction intervention is only the first step in the journey to recovery and that you must ensure that there is a plan in place for your loved one to receive the treatment necessary to ensure long-term success and sobriety. If you are looking for a treatment facility for you or a loved one, San Diego Detox can help.

At San Diego Detox, we employ a team of highly-trained professionals who are well-versed in the most successful methods for treating addiction and substance use disorders. Our therapists will work to develop an individualized therapy and treatment plan to best meet the needs of each individual client. Contact San Diego Detox today for more information on our available treatment options or to learn more about drug addiction intervention.

Pro Tips to Ensure a Successful Drug Addiction Intervention

Ultimately, you cannot force someone who doesn’t want help to seek it. However, advanced planning and sticking to your plan can improve your chances of success. The following tips can help ensure success.

Pay Attention to Scheduling

Don’t schedule an intervention for a time that the person is likely to be intoxicated or stressed. If he or she has to go to work, has recently gone through a stressful or traumatic event, or is otherwise distracted or overwhelmed, they will have trouble listening.

Avoid Shame

Don’t yell at or shame your loved one in order to make them feel guilty. Instead, your job is to help the person see how the addiction has harmed both themselves and the people they love. This person should not come away feeling ashamed or belittled. Make clear distinctions between the person and the disease.

Be Specific

Be specific when itemizing how the person’s addiction has affected you. For example, don’t just say, “Your addiction harms our marriage.” Instead, say, “Your addiction has caused you to burn through our life savings and ignore our children.”

Short and Sweet

Keep your statements short and to the point. A long, rambling speech can be overwhelming. Try writing down what you plan to say in advance, keeping it to five minutes or less.

Have a Plan in Place

Devise a specific treatment plan. Demanding that someone seeks treatment can be overwhelming if you don’t already have a treatment program lined up. Ensure that your loved one’s insurance pays for the program and has an opening. You’ll also want to ensure that the program fits the person’s values.

For example, a program built on the 12-Step model, which references a higher power, may not be a good fit for some patients. If the person wants to research different programs than the one you’ve chosen, take them at their word and offer assistance finding an alternative program.

Follow Through with Your Consequences

A drug addiction intervention is an act of last resort, so you will need to ensure that you are prepared—emotionally and otherwise—to fundamentally change your relationship with your loved one after the intervention is over.3