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What Is an Addiction Intervention?

An addiction intervention may be required for someone with an obvious drug abuse problem.
An intervention may be needed to combat computer addiction.
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  • Written By: Sheri Cyprus
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Last Modified Date: 13 July 2014
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An addiction intervention is a gathering of friends and relatives of a drug addict or alcoholic. They are gathered for the purpose of getting the addicted person to seek treatment. To intervene means to get involved in a way to stop an action or activity; interventions are meant to prevent addicts from continuing to abuse substances such as alcohol or drugs. Intervene can also mean that an action or process is stopped due to an unplanned circumstance. This definition describes an addiction intervention from the addict's perspective, since he or she is not typically expecting the event to occur at that particular time.

For example, the addict is usually invited to a get together for a luncheon or other social activity with people close to him or her. Family and friends participating in the addiction intervention can't tell the person they are trying to help what the actual event is because it's extremely likely that he or she would not go. Interventions are held because addicts have previously refused to get help or have tried many times at rehabilitation, or rehab, and failed to find a solution for their addiction problem. Typically, addiction interventions offer the last hope for someone who has a life-threatening problem with drugs or alcohol.

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When an addict shows up at the intervention and figures out what it is, the response is often anger at being tricked. Family and friends begin to read him letters they've prepared that express their love and concern for the addict. A certified substance abuse counselor, or interventionist, is usually at the meeting to guide the family as well as the addict through the addiction intervention. The counselor tries to keep the addict from leaving by confirming that the people in the room care deeply for him or her and are gathered in the hopes that their loved one will enter an addiction treatment center program.

Many addicts do stay to listen to their loved ones read their letters. The basic format of an addiction intervention letter is to first express love and positive feelings for the person, then identify the dangerous behavior. In identifying the addict's behavior, the letter writer uses "I" statements that shows he or she can no longer support or enable the addiction-related behavior. For instance, an addict's mother who is letting him stay at her home as well as giving some money to pay for drugs may write something like "I love you very much, but I'm worried that this addiction will kill you unless you agree to get help today. I can no longer support your habit or allow you to use drugs in my home; please get help today."

Once all the letters are read and the addict agrees to get help, the interventionist sees that the addict gets on an airplane or other transportation — usually by accompanying him or her — to get to a treatment center. If the addiction intervention is unsuccessful and the addict refuses to get help or bolts out the door, the interventionist typically has trained people follow the addict to keep trying to convince him or her to get help. Since family and friends no longer provide housing, drug money or other support, most addicts do eventually agree to get treatment.

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