Is an Intervention for Substance Use Disorder Needed?
Interventions are powerful tools but is an intervention for substance use disorder any different? My passion is to provide hope and healing to anyone struggling with substance use disorder (SUD). I believe interventions are about helping the entire family, not just the person with SUD. There is no shame in seeking help, but it might be challenging to take that first step. You might not know what to do or who to ask. However, seeking help shows your strength, growth, and wisdom, not your defeat.
Many times, the desire for help doesn’t come from solely within the individual struggling with SUD. Instead, encouragement can come from outside influences, including family, work, or the legal system.
If you know a loved one who is struggling with SUD, it can be overwhelming to seek help. You might not know what steps to take or how to move forward. Sometimes the person with SUD doesn’t want to acknowledge they need help which can put a burden on everyone involved. I believe interventions are sometimes necessary to ensure your loved one heads on a path toward recovery. Read below to find out why an intervention is sometimes needed.
“Interventionists can offer direct experience with addiction and an unwavering focus on solutions.”
An Intervention for SUD Provides Healing
When someone with SUD is struggling, it can place a burden on family, friends, and coworkers. I’ve seen many families and friends struggle to maintain healthy relationships with their loved ones due to SUD. That’s why, when I work with a loved one to provide an intervention for substance use disorder, I don’t only focus on ensuring the person with SUD gets treatment, but I also focus on what needs to be done to heal relationships. This starts with honesty.
Interventions are a time to be honest and open. During interventions, people whose lives have been affected by someone’s SUD can come forward and share their experiences. This allows friends and family to connect over similar experiences and the person with SUD to begin to understand how addiction has impacted others around them.
Here are some other ways interventions can impact participants:
Healing the Individual
Of course, the main purpose of an intervention is to encourage an individual with SUD to seek treatment. Without professional treatment, most people with SUD will find it extremely difficult to cease substance use on their own—and, depending on the substance, it may be dangerous to do so without medical assistance. Intervention can ensure the individual experiences safe, scientifically-backed treatment in a professional setting under the supervision of medical staff, increasing their chances of maintaining healthy recovery.
Healing Family and Friends
Family members will often request an intervention when they need help convincing or encouraging their loved one to seek treatment. Often, this is because substance use is causing a strain in their relationship. The person with SUD continues to misuse substances rather than build or maintain a strong relationship with their family and friends.
I’ve seen interventions begin to repair that damage, despite some hesitation from families who believe interventions could cause further strain. Unfortunately, there is a stigma around asking for help in the form of an intervention due to this fear of compounding relationship damage. However, I believe interventions aren’t just about identifying the issue but also creating a treatment plan to help the entire family.
Healing the Workplace
When there are problems in the workplace due to an employee or coworker’s substance use, employers may contact someone to organize an intervention. This isn’t as common as family intervention, but I believe this is still an effective method to encourage someone with SUD to seek treatment. When workplace relationships are healed, and the person is in recovery, they can continue work, keep the environment and culture positive, and serve their clients and customers.
SUD Intervention When the Person Is Resistant
If someone you love is struggling with a substance use disorder and has been resistant to getting help, it’s easy to begin to feel hopeless. I know firsthand just how difficult it is to watch a loved one disregard their physical and mental health, their career, hobbies, relationships, finances, and more in favor of pursuing another drink or another fix. You may wonder if it’s worth pursuing help for an individual who doesn’t seem to want to help themselves.
Keep in mind that someone struggling with substance use disorder is not who they normally are because substances can alter brain activity tremendously. Regions of the brain that are responsible for decision-making, learning, memory, judgment, and more have adapted to the constant presence of the substance in the body. Because of this, the brain begins to depend on the substance to function until the person becomes physically ill and mentally ill without it. Fortunately, this is not necessarily a permanent change, and intervention means a professional can help your loved one not only recognize treatment is essential but begin to create a treatment plan tailored to their needs.
How to Know When it’s Time
I’ve discussed why interventions are beneficial for healing, but you might be wondering when it’s time to take that step. You’re not alone—many people are unsure when it’s the right time to make the call for help. It’s important to recognize that there is no official “right time” to schedule an intervention, and someone doesn’t have to hit rock bottom for it to be time. In fact, in some cases, it might be too late. If substance misuse is having a negative impact on your loved one’s life, then it’s time to consider setting up an intervention.
Here are some signs to be aware of:
If your loved one is receiving less work, failing to attend work, or has lost their job due to SUD, it’s a sign that an intervention might be necessary. The loss of a job due to SUD can cause a financial strain on the individual, and their need to continue using substances will only cause more stress moving forward.
Physical Health Issues
When an individual with SUD is at risk of causing harm to themselves or others—including physical health issues resulting from long-term substance use—an intervention should be considered. An intervention can help ensure the person receives medical attention for the substance use itself as well as for any associated health issues. Families want their loved ones to live long, happy, and healthy lives and intervention can help the individual get on the path to recovery.
Mental Health Issues
Substance use disorder is itself a mental health issue, but it is often preceded by other issues, including anxiety, depression, and more. Long-term substance use can also cause additional mental health issues. If you notice a loved one becoming hostile and aggressive or isolating themselves from others, they will likely benefit from treatment. In particular, if you know someone with SUD and their mental health is causing distress, fractured relationships, or physical danger to themselves or others, an intervention is likely necessary.
Severe substance use disorder can often lead to additional issues, including criminal acts. If someone is pursuing illicit substances and getting involved in criminal activity because of it, an intervention is recommended. I want people with SUD to live longer, happier, and healthier lives, and getting involved in criminal or legal trouble causes extreme strain on everyone involved.
Interventions for SUD- What Type Is Best?
There are multiple types of interventions that may be suitable for your loved one and their unique situation.
See which type might benefit your loved one the most.
A simple intervention for substance use disorder is exactly how it sounds: simple. A friend or family member meets with the person with SUD in a neutral, non-combative manner and discusses how substance misuse has affected them. Typically, the family member meets with a professional beforehand to ensure the intervention runs smoothly.
This is like a simple intervention but in a group setting rather than one on one. Most often, the interventionist meets with the family beforehand to plan the intervention and then facilitates the discussion during the intervention itself. Classic interventions are most effective when in a non-threatening environment.
If a family enables an individual’s SUD, or if a family is collectively struggling with SUD, this type of intervention may be necessary, as it is designed to help the family. This intervention type aims to help families find better ways to cope with issues related to SUD. Individual treatment is still recommended for the individual with SUD, and codependency or other treatment is recommended for enabling family members. Since so many factors are involved, a professional interventionist is crucial for this type of intervention.
This is the only type of intervention where planning beforehand may not be possible. When a dangerous situation has occurred due to SUD, a crisis intervention can take place on the spot with the people who are present at the time of the crisis. These types of interventions aim to encourage the individual to seek treatment to prevent another crisis.
Intervention for SUD – It’s Never Too Early or Too Late
It’s important to remember that the main goal of an intervention for substance use disorder is to heal. The idea is not to attack, shame, or belittle anyone struggling with SUD but instead to discuss behaviors, consequences, and a plan for moving forward. As mentioned, someone doesn’t have to be at the lowest point of their life for you to finally make the call—if you know someone who is struggling with any issues listed above, it’s time to set up an intervention. Don’t be dissuaded by what seems like a severe case of SUD, either. Even if the person seems like they’re beyond help, it’s not too late.
People with SUD are more likely to seek treatment after an intervention than they are if left to deal with substance use on their own. That means interventions are a useful tool in ensuring the person with SUD feels as though they are deserving of help and can be hopeful for the future. Often, the emotional statements and encouragement offered by loved ones are effective in helping a person with SUD recognize that the issue doesn’t only exist with them but with those around them, too. Seeing others impacted by their SUD can help convince them to seek treatment.
I would always recommend seeking professional help to set up an intervention. Someone who’s qualified to hold an intervention can help you reach out to your loved one effectively and can keep things moving in an effective manner. Among reasons to hire an interventionist, they will know how to address mental health conditions, provide guidance and leadership during the intervention, and help schedule treatment.
Intervention for Substance Use Disorder – Is It Time?
If you’re still unsure if an intervention for substance use disorder is needed for your loved one, please take this intervention quiz for a further assessment. No matter the results, I encourage you to be supportive of those with SUD in any way you can without enabling their behavior. Knowing a loved one is struggling with SUD can make you feel defeated, hopeless, and negative, but helping them find solutions that result in a healthier life ahead is one of the best things you can do for yourself and for them.
You shouldn’t have to feel alone with your loved one’s battle with substance use disorder. That’s why my partner, Brad Langenberg and I started A Time to Heal: Family Interventions.
Addiction is an emotional disease. Family members and friends of addicts often aren’t trained in the skills needed to help someone recover from addiction. Even if they were, it would be incredibly difficult for them to detach emotionally enough to remain focused on solutions. Interventionists can offer direct experience with addiction and an unwavering focus on solutions.
Ready to get help for your loved one? Book a Free Consultation with us here.
As always, stay strong.
Want to Learn More About Family Intervention Services?
My good friend and partner, Brad Langenberg, and I offer a family focused intervention service.
Learn more about it and reach out for a free and confidential consultation to see if we can help you and your family.