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Drug Intervention: How To Help Someone With Addiction

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Drug interventions can motivate people to seek treatment if they have lost control over their drug use. Family and loved ones can stage an intervention with these tips.

How to Stage a Drug Intervention

Drug interventions can encourage a person to start life-saving addiction treatment. Often family and friends recognize rehab is needed, but the person with an addiction may hesitate to seek help. During an intervention, those close to the person come together to discuss seeking help for their addiction.

What Is a Drug Intervention?

An intervention is performed when someone uses drugs but does not recognize or accept that they need treatment. With the help of a professional, family members and friends try to motivate their loved one to enter rehab or addiction treatment.

When Is an Intervention for Drug Abuse Needed?

An intervention is warranted when a person has developed a drug addiction but doesn’t seek treatment, despite suffering serious consequences from substance misuse. Continuing to use drugs despite relationship problems, health issues or an inability to control substance use indicates a substance use disorder — the clinical term for addiction.

Other signs suggest a person has lost control of drug use and needs an intervention. These signs can include:

  • Needing larger amounts of the substance to achieve intoxication or a high
  • Being unable to reduce drug use
  • Experiencing withdrawal symptoms when not using a substance
  • Risk-taking behaviors (E.g., driving under the influence, having unprotected sex)
  • Decrease in performance at work or school
  • Changes in sleep patterns, appearance or hygiene
  • Sudden shift in behaviors or mood
  • Secretive behaviors
  • Irritability or aggression
  • Decreasing or stopping activities that were once enjoyed

In some cases, it may be necessary to intervene sooner than later. For example, an intervention can be life-saving if your loved one experiences serious consequences associated with addiction, such as criminal charges or overdoses.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and National Institute on Drug Abuse reported that from 2019–2021 drug-related overdose deaths in the U.S. increased from 70,630–106,699. In 2021, Florida had the 18th highest drug overdose death rate in the U.S. Intervening at the first signs of trouble can get your loved one on the path to recovery.

How to Stage a Drug Intervention

1. Hire a Drug Intervention Specialist

Before staging an intervention, contact an intervention specialist. Avoid attempting an intervention alone. These specialists are trained professionals equipped to help families and friends intervene with their loved ones struggling with substance use. They provide education on addiction and how to intervene. They help plan, coordinate and run the intervention. They also mediate the conversation and provide resources.

Interventionists are trained to help you effectively confront your loved one so you don’t shame them. They also provide conflict resolution skills and a neutral party. This helps keep intervention meetings on track and provides support if family members or friends become especially emotional or distracted.

2. Form an Intervention Group

Work with your intervention specialist to identify individuals who could help during the intervention and encourage the loved one to go to treatment. Group members might include partners, friends, parents, siblings, co-workers, cousins or adult children. Prepare group members for the fact that interventions can be emotionally charged and intense.

3. Plan the Intervention

The intervention specialist will help you plan the meeting and decide who will speak, the order of the speakers and the information they will share. Plan how to respond if the loved one reacts angrily, defensively or distraught. Choose which resources you’ll provide and the next steps you will ask them to take.

4. Prepare and Rehearse

Each group member must prepare and rehearse with the intervention specialist. They will help members understand addiction, how to communicate with the loved one and strategies to use during the meeting. It’s recommended for members to write down how the loved one’s addiction has hurt them and allow the intervention specialist to review it beforehand.

Approach the intervention from a place of love and concern. Share that you want safety and healing for your loved one, and avoid placing blame or making them feel ashamed. Communicate that the situation is serious and that you want them to receive the treatment they need to live a healthy, drug-free life.

5. Decide on Consequences for Refusing Treatment

Following through on the stated consequences is important if the loved one refuses treatment. Before the meeting, discuss possible consequences with the intervention specialist and the group members. This might include discontinued financial support, asking the individual to move out or limiting their visits with child family members.

6. Choose a Meeting Time and Location

Select a place that isn’t threatening to the loved one, where they will feel comfortable. Try to pick a time when the individual is likely to be sober and able to meet for 30–90 minutes. You also want a time when all important group members can be present and not rushed.

7. Conduct the Intervention

During the intervention, each group member will follow the speaking order and share their feelings, concerns and how the addiction has impacted them. The loved one will be asked to begin treatment immediately. Members will also share the consequences if the individual refuses treatment.

8. Follow Up

The intervention specialist can help group members decide how to follow up on whether the loved one started treatment. Members may decide to attend family therapy, individual therapy or support groups for loved ones of those with addictions. They can also choose healthy boundaries they want to establish with the individual. Members will follow through on their stated consequences if the loved one refuses treatment.

You might also like: Mental Health Interventions: How To Help Someone With a Mental Health Problem

Drug Intervention Strategies

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

Johnson Model

The Johnson model involves caregivers confronting a person about drug addiction. 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 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.


The ARISE drug intervention method uses the “invitational intervention.” Repeated family meetings gradually intensify to motivate your loved one to seek treatment. The person with an addiction is invited to sessions from the beginning, so there are no surprises. Rather than using a confrontational approach, ARISE aims to be gentle and loving.

Family Systemic Model

The family systemic drug intervention model accepts that drug use affects individuals with addictions and 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 surprise meetings, as the person 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.

Crisis Intervention

The crisis intervention model aims to provide immediate stabilization for those experiencing physical, behavioral, emotional or mental health crises concerning their substance use. This often involves the help of a crisis team made up of support professionals. They assess for urgent concerns and needs and help the individual get immediate treatment to address the crisis. This is a short-term treatment for stabilization, not a long-term recovery treatment.

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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 begin recovery. Certain styles of drug interventions may also be more effective than others.

A systematic review found that forced treatment programs, such as those that a person enrolls in after an intervention, may only be effective in some instances. Drug interventions can still be helpful for the family, even if they don’t motivate the individual to seek treatment. For example, if your loved one does not choose to enter rehab, the interventionist will still teach you how to best interact without enabling addiction. If you make positive changes, your loved one might seek treatment later.

Drug Intervention Programs in Florida

According to the Florida Department of Health, the state has been particularly hard-hit by the opioid epidemic. As such, several different drug intervention programs are available in Florida. To address the opioid epidemic and other drug-related deaths, the state has received grant funding to monitor overdose fatalities and increase prevention efforts.

Finding Help for Drug Addiction in Florida

If you are seeking treatment services in Florida, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration also offers a search tool for locating services in your area.

If you are looking for drug addiction treatment in the South Florida area, The Recovery Village at Baptist Health offers a range of trauma-informed addiction treatment services, including medical detox, inpatient rehab and outpatient care. We’re also a proud VA Community Care Network partner, serving veterans and their families. Contact a Recovery Advocate today to learn how we can support your or a loved one’s healing and recovery.

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?

Many factors 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 on substances. Repeated drug misuse can also cause changes in the brain that lead a person to seek drugs compulsively despite serious consequences.

How do you stage an intervention?

While some people may stage an intervention without the help of a trained drug intervention specialist, a professional can make the process more effective. Typically, staging an intervention involves planning and meetings where loved ones discuss their concerns and encourage a person with an 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 with the person of concern from the beginning. In these methods, there are no surprises. An addiction professional can help determine the best drug intervention for your family.

View Sources

Florida Department of Health. “Florida Drug Overdose Surveillance and Epidemiology (FL-DOSE).” March 9, 2021. Accessed May 12, 2023.

American Psychological Association. “Johnson Intervention.” 2011. Accessed May 12, 2023.

ARISE Network. “An Overview Of ARISE® Comprehensive Care With Intervention.” 2020. Accessed May 12, 2023.

Association of Intervention Specialists. “What is the Family Systemic Model?” May 2, 2017. Accessed May 12, 2023.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Drug Overdose Mortality by State.” Center for Disease Control and Prevention, March 2, 2022. Accessed May 10, 2023.

NIDA. “Drug Overdose Death Rates.” National Institute on Drug Abuse, February 9, 2023. Accessed May 10, 2023.

NIDA. “The Science of Drug Use and Addiction: The Basics.” National Institute on Drug Abuse, February 19, 2023. Accessed 12 May 2023.

NIDA. “Understanding Drug Use and Addiction DrugFacts.” National Institute on Drug Abuse, July 2018. Accessed May 12, 2023.

National Institute on Drug Abuse. “What is drug addiction?” July 2018. Accessed May 12, 2023.

Roberts, Albert & Nalbo, Rakesh. “The Seven-Stage Crisis Intervention Model: A Systematic Blueprint for Intentional Crisis Response.” May 2020. Accessed May 12, 2023.

Werb, D., et al. “The effectiveness of compulsory drug treatment: A systematic review.” International Journal of Drug Policy, February 2016. Accessed May 12, 2023.