According to the 2019 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, among people aged 12 and older in 2019, 60.1% used a substance in the past month. Specifically, 50.8% drank alcohol in the past month, and 13% used an illicit drug. In 2019, there were 3.5 million new marijuana users, 1.6 million new pain medication users, 1.2 million hallucinogen drug users, and close to one million prescription stimulant users. Substance abuse is problematic across the country, and countless families struggle to take the first step to help a loved one addicted to drugs or alcohol.
Many of the barriers involve not knowing what the signs of addiction are, or the family is enabling the addict, and there are issues with co-dependency. Some drug users hide their addiction so well that it is difficult to know what to look for. However, taking the first step is crucial, and this ensures the person struggling with addiction receives the help they need.
What is Drug and Alcohol Intervention?
A drug and alcohol intervention is a carefully planned and structured conversation that involves a certified interventionist, family members, and friends, along with the individual struggling with addiction. The goal of family intervention is not to place blame or point the finger, but to help the addicted person realize that they have a problem with drugs or alcohol. The intervention points out how addiction negatively impacts the addict’s life and the lives of the people around them.
An interventionist helps those taking part in an intervention to discuss how the substance abusers’ addiction is harming them and how their actions have harmed their loved ones. The intervention process also offers educational information and plans for recovery for the person struggling with addiction. Taking the first step with planning a drug or alcohol intervention is hiring a professional interventionist. When talking with a certified family interventionist, they would help the family determine if an intervention is needed. However, regardless of what stage of addiction the addict is in, early intervention works, and the family does not have to wait to plan a drug or alcohol intervention.
The Symptoms and Signs of Addiction
The symptoms of addiction are experienced by the person struggling with the addiction. However, the outward signs of addiction are noticeable by everyone close to the addict. Family and friends might begin to notice some of the signs and symptoms of addiction or notice unusual behavioral or physical changes. For example, they may become more secretive, begin to lie, or even steal and end up with large amounts of money at one time and then have no money shortly after. There are often changes in social groups, and new and unusual friends, along with odd conversations over text and the phone.
Typically, someone struggling with addiction has repeated unexplained outings that may seem urgent. Family members may even notice drug paraphernalia in the house and find stashes of drugs. Substance abuse leads to many different symptoms, such as tolerance, which is the need to use drugs or alcohol for the desired effect. Also, withdrawal symptoms occur when the drug user stops using or does not use the amount they need. Someone abusing drugs or alcohol will find it difficult to cut down or control the addictive behavior. Families may also notice extreme mood changes, along with changes in energy, sleeping patterns, and weight loss or weight gain.
Taking the First Step and Organizing a Drug and Alcohol Intervention
It is not easy to decide to act and help someone addicted to drugs or alcohol. The person close to the addict could be enabling them, or they are co-dependent on one another. However, there are usually family and friends aware of the problem and who are willing to take the proper steps to help the addict. The first step is getting help, such as hiring a professional interventionist or speaking to one. Support during this process is crucial, and the family does not have to tackle this alone. The second step is forming the intervention team, which is the core group of people who will be at the intervention. Typically, these are close friends and family members, or even coworkers, but they must not be swayed easily by the person abusing drugs or alcohol.
The third step is developing a plan and learning about substance abuse and addiction, which a certified interventionist would help with. It is important to have a time and location selected and planning what is going to be said and by whom. Family interventionists help the intervention participants write impact statements. These statements are personal and detail how the addiction has harmed the person they love. Family dynamics are torn apart by addiction, and written statements express this is a non-judgmental and non-confrontational way. The family should rehearse this with the interventionist and be prepared to set boundaries. The person struggling with addiction may say no to help and deny they have a problem—if this occurs, the family should be prepared to follow through with consequences.
The first step is recognizing there is a problem, but also know there are solutions. No family should feel trapped, and drug and alcohol interventions help families regain control. An addict does not have to hit rock bottom, because, in reality, there is no rock bottom. Family and friends can intervene at any time because this is about saving the life of the addict.