How to Intervene When Someone You Love Has an Addiction
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Updated: July 5, 2022

How to Intervene When Someone You Love Has an Addiction

Loving an addict can feel like an intense and all-consuming rollercoaster ride. The highs are high, and the lows are low. Family members or friends might not know the best way to help someone they love with addiction. Sometimes simply talking to the individual doesn’t work, and an intervention is the next practical step to help your loved one.

What Is an Intervention?

A brief intervention for substance use disorder (SUD) is an excellent place to begin when helping loved ones battling addiction. Brief interventions have been performed for many years to help individuals struggling with alcohol or drug abuse.

Brief interventions are structured, client-centered, unconditionally loving, non-judgmental, and honest confrontations performed by a professional interventionist where family and friends display their love for the individual struggling with substance abuse.

Some examples of brief interventions involve asking your family member to try and stop substance use and see if they can stop on their own, interventions focused on encouragement to join a support group, such as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) or Narcotics Anonymous (NA), or participating in a brief, structured, time-limited effort to help your family member stop using.

What Are the Goals of a Brief Intervention?

Brief interventions are evidence-based procedures for working with individuals with at-risk use and less severe abuse behaviors. Interventions are performed by a professional and can be successful when your loved one is transferred into a specialty treatment environment.

The goals of brief intervention vary according to the level of consumption. A detailed description for each group is provided below to understand better how to intervene with your loved one.

The Abstainer

You may be wondering how an intervention can be performed for a person who does not consume alcohol or drugs. However, education about substance use that prevents SUD is critical for younger individuals.

The Light or Moderate User

Similar to the abstainer, the goal of a brief intervention with individuals who are light or moderate users is to educate them. The main difference at this level is that people need to learn about guidelines for low-risk use and potential problems of increased consumption.

For example, The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism defines heavy drinking as consuming more than four drinks a day or more than fourteen drinks per week for men. For women, heavy drinking is defined as more than three drinks a day or more than seven drinks per week. Even light or moderate substance use can turn into “one too many” and result in health problems or legal issues.

The At-Risk User

The at-risk users involve individuals who consume more alcohol than the amounts for heavy drinking described above or people at risk for complications regarding their consumption or meeting the criteria for SUD.

Brief interventions with at-risk users address the level of their substance use, encourage moderation or abstinence and inform about the consequences of risky behavior and the risks associated with increased substance use. Helping the client recognize the need for change is critical in this part of the process.

The Abuser

A substance abuser refers to clients with SUD as defined by the Diagnostics and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th Edition (DSM-V) criteria. The goal of intervention with abusers is dependent upon the clinician's theoretical assessment and the substances used by the client.

The objective involves preventing any increase in the use of substances, facilitating self-examination about the consequences of risky behavior, encouraging the client to consider assessment or treatment, and promoting moderation or abstinence.

The Substance-Dependent User

Intervention for the substance-dependent user concentrates on encouraging the consideration of treatment, abstinence, or return to treatment after a relapse. The goal of intervention in this stage is the ideal behavior change and level of care.

It is important to note that some substance-dependent family members could be involved in life-threatening situations because of their addiction, such as losing their job, going to jail, or losing family members. In that case, brief interventions should link a referral strategy between the family member and the therapist.

When to Intervene for a Loved One

Although well-meaning, it can be challenging to find the right words to say when confronting loved ones about their addiction. They might deny having a drug or alcohol problem altogether, making open discussions difficult.

Some of the signs that a loved one is struggling could include:

  • Decreased energy or low motivation
  • Issues at work or school
  • Health problems
  • Secretive behavior
  • Borrowing ample sums of money
  • Aggressive behavior
  • Deterioration of physical appearance

Staging the Intervention

Present Moments Recovery provides interventions through a four-phase process.

In the first phase, they meet with family and other loved ones to discuss when the intervention training sessions will occur.

The second phase will entail participation in training sessions. The family and loved ones attending the intervention will review material for boundaries, the continuum of care treatment cycle, the intervention process, and a walk-through.

The third phase is intervention day, where two attempts are conducted with the participants.

The fourth phase will involve following up with a family counseling session.

Finding Help Staging an Intervention

We want to hear about your condition, and we can help. Present Moments Recovery can help facilitate interventions and deliver the complete continuum of addiction treatment from drug detoxification to residential rehabilitation, outpatient treatment, and even sober living. All of our programs are certified and recognized for excellence by CARF.

Staging an intervention for someone you love can feel intimidating. You may not know where or how to start the process. If you find yourself at your wit’s end because of a loved one’s addiction, we are here to help you. Present Moments Recovery center in San Diego, California, can walk you through the necessary steps with their interventionist to ensure your loved one receives the quality care they deserve. If you need to intervene for someone you love, accentuate that the intervention is out of love and compassion and ensure that they know they have your love and support now and throughout the recovery process. At Present Moments Recovery, your loved one will be able to work with the same staff members throughout the treatment process, which ensures all their needs are satisfied. Call us today and learn more about our services at (619) 363-4767.


If you or a loved one is looking for an effective drug rehab in San Diego, call 619-363-4767. One of our caring members is ready to answer all of your questions.

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