A simple guide to interventions for addiction

When does habit turn into addiction?

In today’s modern society, the stress of our fast-paced lifestyle has caused an increasing amount of individuals to turn to substances for relief. As this occasional use becomes addiction and abuse, it begins to not only take a toll on the addict and their family and friends, but on society in general.

According to studies by the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH), 1 in 5 Canadians struggles with addiction.

In 2014, Canada’s economic cost of substance abuse was $38.4 billion CAD, distributed amongst healthcare, criminal justice, and lost productivity. Alcohol led the way with $14.6 billion in costs, followed by tobacco at $12 billion, opioids at $3.5 billion, and cannabis at $2.8 billion.

According to another 2014 study by the Canadian Institute for Substance Use Research and the Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction, substance abuse related healthcare costs were $11.1 billion CAD, criminal justice costs were $9 billion, while lost productivity cost taxpayers $15.7 billion.

Despite these bleak statistics, hope is available in the form of interventions. These can be staged for various reasons, such as alcoholism, prescription drug abuse, street drug abuse, compulsive eating, and gambling.

What is an intervention?

Interventions are carefully planned processes by interventionists or doctors that can involve friends and family. They are often called structured conversations.

Interventions are beneficial for addicts who are in denial about their problems and may be unwilling to seek treatment.

An intervention is the best way to demonstrate to an addict that they are loved, but that their actions have consequences.

During the process, examples of destructive behaviours and a prearranged treatment plan are discussed in detail. The consequences of what will happen if one refuses treatment are also discussed.

Signs that an intervention is necessary

  • Aggressive behaviour
  • Decreased motivation and energy
  • Problems at work, school, and social life
  • Increased secrecy
  • Borrowing money
  • Hygiene problems

Types of interventions

  • Direct. These involve family members, friends, loved ones and lay out an action plan of treatment.
  • Indirect. Place a focus on the addict’s family and environment and provide guidance but not treatment.
  • Forcible. Usually court-ordered mandates and used as a last resort when the addict is a danger to themselves and those around them.

Specific interventions

  • ARISE Intervention – uses both direct and indirect intervention methods. Both the family and the addict are encouraged to seek treatment.
  • Johnson Institute Model – focuses on educating the family members on how to best convince the addict to seek help.
  • Crisis Intervention – can begin as a direct intervention and end as a forcible one. This type is often used when the addict is putting themselves and others in danger. 
  • Tough Love – is considered a last resort. The addict is cut off financially and socially.

Intervention process stages

  • Planning. During the first stage of the process, loved ones consult a mental health counsellor, psychologist, or interventionist to organize the intervention. Participants can include parents, siblings, spouses, partners, friends, and coworkers.
  • Information gathering. Participants research treatment options and make arrangements for the addict. It is best to speak to qualified health professionals for recommendations. For example, local or national organizations can be contacted for advice, such as Alcoholics Anonymous.
  • Pre-Intervention. The core group of participants set a concrete date, time, and place and scripts are prepared. Each group member should outline the problems and the consequences for not going to treatment.
  • Intervention. One of the most important things to remember is not to make the individual feel attacked. Only include those who the person likes, respects, or loves; do not include those with whom there may be a conflict.

Ensuring a successful intervention

  • Ensure that the intervention is planned correctly, make it simple, and choose a time that the addict is not likely to be under the influence.
  • Use a trained professional.
  • Research the addiction, avoid confrontation, and be supportive. Focus on solutions to problems as opposed to the problems themselves.
  • Hold a rehearsal beforehand.
  • Be firm about the consequences.

Effectiveness of interventions

The National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (NCADD) states that more than 90% of interventions led by professionals end in success. However, many variables are involved.

The effectiveness and success rate of interventions often depends of the type of intervention used. Direct intervention is most effective for addicts who are unlikely or unwilling to take the first step in going to treatment. The peer pressure of the intervention is often the push that is needed.

It is important to remember that whatever the outcome of the intervention, it is not a factor in the rehabilitation outcome. However, addicts with strong social support and access to a good treatment centre are more likely to succeed post-treatment.

While addiction can be overwhelming for both the addict and their loved ones, with appropriate intervention and treatment, most people do recover from addiction.