Drug interventions are a method of encouraging someone to seek treatment for addiction. Sometimes, friends and loved ones may recognize that treatment is needed, but the person with an addiction may be hesitant to reach out for help. In these cases, intervention for drug abuse may be necessary.

What Is an Intervention?

An intervention is performed when someone has been abusing drugs but does not recognize or accept that they need treatment. During an intervention, family members and friends — with the help of a professional — try to motivate their loved one to enter rehab or treatment for addiction.

When Is an Intervention for Drug Abuse Needed?

An intervention is warranted when a person has developed a drug addiction but fails to seek treatment, despite suffering from serious consequences associated with drug abuse. Continuing to use drugs in spite of relationship problems, health issues or an inability to control substance use indicates a substance use disorder — the clinical term for addiction.

There are other signs that suggest a person has lost control of drug use and needs an intervention. These signs include:

  • Using larger amounts of drugs than intended
  • Being unable to reduce drug use
  • Using drugs in hazardous situations (driving while under the influence, for example)

In some cases, it may be necessary to intervene sooner rather than later. For example, if your loved one is experiencing serious consequences associated with addiction, such as criminal charges or overdoses, an intervention can be life-saving. Florida Health found that the number of overdose deaths in the state doubled between 2014 and 2016. Intervening at the first signs of trouble can get your loved one on the path to recovery.

How To Perform a Drug Intervention

The most important part of any intervention is its planning. An intervention conducted with little to no planning is not likely to be successful. One woman described the experience of losing her sister to drug addiction: Her family’s poorly planned intervention did not encourage their loved one to seek treatment. Instead, she died from drug abuse shortly after the intervention.

When planning an intervention, it’s important to: 

  • Find a professional who can help you conduct the meeting.
  • Prepare a list of ways addiction has negatively affected your loved one and those around them
  • Determine what consequences you will put in place if the person does not choose to seek treatment, like no longer providing money or a place to stay.

While it is necessary to develop consequences, it is also important that you approach the intervention from a place of love and concern. Your loved one should understand that you simply want them to get better, and you should avoid placing blame or making them feel ashamed. Communicate that the situation is serious and you want them to receive the treatment they need to live a healthy, drug-free life. It may be helpful to write a letter that you can read during the intervention to communicate all of your thoughts clearly.

Drug Intervention Strategies

More than one type of drug intervention strategy exists. Some involve a secret meeting in which family members and friends confront their loved one about addiction. Other strategies include the person of concern in the first meeting, so the confrontation occurs from the very beginning instead of being planned secretly.

A few common interventions for drug abuse are as follows: 

  • Johnson model: As the American Psychological Association (APA) explains, the Johnson model involves caregivers confronting a person about drug abuse. With this type of intervention, you determine which people from your loved one’s social circle will be willing to participate in the intervention. The group comes together for two planning meetings where you learn about the consequences of enabling an addiction and develop goals and problem-solving strategies for the intervention. Your group then has an intervention with the help of a therapist and confronts the person about the drug addiction. This secretive form of intervention is often depicted in the media.
  • ARISE: The ARISE drug intervention method uses a technique called the “invitational intervention.” Repeated family meetings gradually become more intense to motivate your loved one to seek treatment. The person with an addiction is invited to meetings from the very beginning, so there are no surprises. Rather than using a confrontational approach, ARISE aims to be gentle and loving.
  • CRAFT (Community Reinforcement and Family Training): The CRAFT drug intervention model teaches families how to communicate with a person with addiction, practice self-care and use positive reinforcement to encourage desired behavior. The model can also teach you how to get someone to accept treatment, but it does not use confrontational meetings planned in secret.
  • Family systemic model: The family systemic drug intervention model accepts that drug abuse affects not only individuals with addictions, but also their family members and friends. The model guides the entire family toward seeking counseling and developing healthy communication patterns. The family systemic model does not use any surprise meetings, as the person living with the addiction participates in each intervention meeting. There may be more than one meeting, but the intervention ultimately concludes with everyone in the family accepting treatment to help them heal from the effects of addiction.
  • Motivational interviewing: A drug interventionist may use the motivational interviewing technique to help people overcome their reluctance to seek treatment. The motivational interviewing technique understands it’s normal for people to have some resistance to accepting help for an addiction. An interventionist using this method remains empathetic and non-confrontational while taking opportunities to discuss ways your loved one’s addiction may be interfering with their hopes and goals in life.

Related: How to Help Someone with Alcohol Use Disorder (Alcoholism)

Interventions for Teenage Drug Use

Because teenagers often live in their parents’ homes and are subject to parental authority, interventions for teenage drug use may look different from those performed with adults. For example, an adult may refuse to enter treatment after an intervention, but parents may have more authority to enroll minor children in treatment, even if they are resistant. Many states have involuntary commitment laws that allow parents to send their children to rehab, even if the child disagrees with the decision.

Even if parents can ultimately choose to send their children to rehab, many teens will appreciate being included in the conversation and decision-making process. A formal family intervention can serve as a reality check for teens and help them understand the seriousness of their addiction and the need to seek treatment.

Since teens often live at home with parents, the family systemic model may be beneficial. This model ensures that all family members can heal from the effects of addiction. A CRAFT intervention may also be beneficial because it teaches parents how to develop strategies for helping their teen, such as using positive reinforcement and improving communication skills.

Hiring a Drug Intervention Specialist

Some families may conduct an intervention without the help of a professional, but hiring a drug intervention specialist can increase your chances of success. A drug intervention specialist is trained and experienced in addiction. In addition to moderating interventions, they can teach families the skills needed to effectively help someone struggling with drug abuse.

A drug interventionist also brings conflict resolution skills to the table and has a neutral stance. This professional can help keep intervention meetings on track and provide support if family members or friends become especially emotional or distracted.

Interventionists are also trained in communication skills that can help you effectively confront your loved one. Confronting your loved one without the guidance of a trained drug intervention specialist can actually be counterproductive — you may mistakenly cause your loved one to shut down and refuse the offer for help.

Do Drug Interventions Work?

A drug intervention may not work for everyone, but it can be the first step in getting your loved one to start treatment and begin a drug-free lifestyle. Certain styles of drug interventions may also be more effective than others.

A review of research shows that forced treatment programs, such as those that a person enrolls in after an intervention, have mixed effects. Forced treatment may not work in some cases, but in some studies, forced rehab has been effective.

The CRAFT model, with its non-confrontational approach and focus on skill-building, may be especially beneficial. A study found that CRAFT was more beneficial than support group programs like Al-Anon, and about two-thirds of those who completed a CRAFT intervention attended treatment.

Drug interventions can still be helpful for the family, even if they don’t motivate someone to seek treatment. For example, if your loved one does not choose to enter rehab, the interventionist can still teach you how to best interact with your loved one so that you are not enabling the addiction. If you make positive changes, your loved one may still end up seeking treatment.

Drug Intervention Programs in Florida

According to Florida Health, the state has been particularly hard-hit by the opioid epidemic. As such, there are a variety of drug intervention programs available in Florida. To address the opioid epidemic, the state has received grant funding to monitor opioid overdoses. The Florida Department of Children and Families also links both adults and teens to drug intervention programs, including detox, treatment and recovery support.

Finding Help for Drug Addiction in Florida

If you are seeking treatment services in Florida, the Department of Children and Families is a useful resource. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration also offers a search tool for locating services in Florida.

If you are looking for drug addiction treatment in the South Florida area, The Recovery Village at Baptist Health offers a range of addiction treatment services, including detox, inpatient rehab and outpatient care. Contact us today to learn how we can benefit you or your loved one.

Drug Intervention FAQs

  • What is a drug intervention?

    The term “drug intervention” typically refers to meetings where loved ones explain concerns to a person with addiction and encourage them to seek treatment.


  • What causes drug addiction?

    There are a variety of factors that contribute to the development of addiction. A mix of genetic factors, trauma, abuse or mental illness can cause a person to become addicted to drugs. Ultimately, drug addiction occurs because ongoing drug use can cause the body to become dependent upon substances. Repeated drug abuse can also cause changes in the brain that lead a person to compulsively seek drugs despite serious consequences.

  • How do you stage an intervention?

    While some people may stage one without the help of a trained drug intervention specialist, a professional can make the process more effective. Staging an intervention typically involves some planning, as well as meetings where loved ones discuss their concerns and encourage a person with addiction to seek treatment. It is also important to develop a list of consequences that will occur if your loved one does not seek treatment.

  • What are intervention strategies?

    Some families may prefer a direct method. The Johnson model involves a surprise meeting where you confront a loved one and convince them to go to treatment. Other intervention strategies involve gentler methods and planned meetings that the person of concern attends from the beginning. In these methods, there are no surprises. An addiction professional can help you determine which drug intervention method is best for your family.

Medical Disclaimer: The Recovery Village Palm Beach at Baptist Health aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider.