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How to Intervene

How to Intervene

How to Intervene: Help a loved one overcome addiction.

It can be both devastating and terrifying to conclude that a loved one is suffering from a substance use disorder. Whether the substance misuse is with drugs, alcohol, or perfectly legal prescription drugs, it can be difficult to figure out how to handle the situation.  The situation is delicate, and while you don’t want to drive the person away, you also don’t want to enable their dangerous behavior. So, when it comes to substance misuse, how to intervene?

Substance Misuse – Signs & Symptoms

To start, it’s important to note that substance use disorders can affect those from all walks of life, regardless of age, educational level and socioeconomic status. Even the strongest among us can be susceptible to the dominating power of addiction.  It can be hard to believe that a loved one could be engaging in substance misuse, but if someone you know is demonstrating these signs of symptoms, it may be time to help them get treatment.

Physical changes caused by substance misuse can be the easiest to notice. Is this person experiencing abrupt, dramatic weight changes? Are their pupils dilated or constricted? Eyes frequently bloodshot? For intravenous drug users, bruises or infections at the drug’s entrance site on the body can indicate a serious problem.

From a behavioral perspective, the longer someone becomes dependent on drugs or alcohol, the more their habits and personality are altered. Depending on the substance, certain drugs can actually alter the ability to form coherent thoughts and sentences. Some of the following changes can indicate a substance use disorder:

  • Depression
  • Lethargy
  • Increased agitation
  • Dramatic personality changes
  • Heightened irritability

It’s important to note that different substances have varying levels of symptoms.  Learning to identify the signs and symptoms of substance misuse can help you recognize when it’s necessary for you to intervene.


Intervening with substance misuse can be a matter of life and death. While you may have been deeply hurt or troubled by the individual’s behavior toward you while in the throes of substance misuse, it is important to try to put those feelings aside and remember that the number one goal is to get this person the help they need to overcome their substance use disorder and survive.

While it can be tempting to simply confront the person one-on-one, especially if you are very close, an intervention is much more complex than simply pointing out to someone that they have a substance use disorder. It is not a confrontation, but rather an invitation for someone to accept help.  When past feelings and hurt are involved, it can be difficult to keep emotions in check. Therefore, having a professional there to guide the situation and create a structured environment is ideal.  They can ensure that the conversation stays on trek, and keep emotions in check if things get heated.

Most professional interventionists will:

  • Take the necessary preparations prior to the intervention, including coaching you and other loved ones on how to approach the individual who is misuing substances
  • Moderate the intervention, keeping the conversations focused on the most important goal – making your loved one understand that they need professional help to overcome substance use disorder
  • Providing assistance with transitioning the individual with substance use disorder into rehabilitation programs following a successful intervention
  • During the intervention, it is common to tell the individual that you will no longer tolerate certain negative behaviors. The interventionist can help you and your loved one follow through on this, if the person experiencing substance misuse denies treatment.

It can be difficult for those with substance use disorder to accept the root of their issues actually stems from drugs and alcohol. An intervention can help break down that wall of denial, making them realize how their substance misuse is negatively impacting those they love, and how in danger their life might really be.

Timing an Intervention – Waiting for Rock Bottom?

It’s a common misconception that a person needs to hit rock-bottom before loved ones intervene and advise they seek professional treatment. However, this has been largely debunked. The earlier someone gets help, the easier substance misuse is to overcome.

Hoping for Success, Preparing for Failure

When having an intervention, everyone hopes for success. However, one must prepare for the possibility of failure. You cannot force someone to see what they do not want to see, or hear what they do not want to hear. All you can do is try. Remember, all is not lost if the intervention is not successful.  Hearing how their substance misuse and its resulting behaviors have negatively impacted friends and friendly may start to chip at their wall of denial, laying the groundwork for what will eventually cause it to crumble completely.

Contact Us Today

To learn more about Life of Purpose, the first primary treatment facility on a college campus in the United States, and how to conduct a successful intervention, please contact us at 1-888-787-7673, or visit our website:


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