When Is It Time for an Intervention?

couple intervention

When a family member or friend is suffering under the grip of addiction, it can be difficult to know how and when you should act. Do you risk pushing them away by talking to them about their addiction? Should you enlist the help of a professional? How do you know when it’s time to intervene?

These questions are all very common and it’s natural to be hesitant about staging an intervention, especially if you’ve never held one before. If you’re reading this blog, we’re glad you are seeking help for your loved one and we’re happy to provide all the information we can to help you make an informed decision on how to handle your situation. To begin, let’s start with the basics.

What Is an Intervention?

According to the Association of Intervention Specialists, an intervention is simply an opportunity to interrupt a person’s destructive life patterns.1 The primary goals of an addiction intervention are:

  • To get a loved one to admit that they need help
  • To convince them to enroll in a treatment program right away

An intervention is not designed to be a tool that attacks, condemns, or criticizes an individual for his or her behaviors. Instead, loved ones are encouraged to share specific examples of how the person’s addiction has harmed them or those around them. All accusatory statements should be left out of the conversation and the environment should continually be one of understanding and compassion.

If an intervention is held in a positive and effective way, more often than not, the addicted loved one will be responsive to the concerns shared by his or her friends and family. While an intervention is never guaranteed to get your loved one enroll in treatment, it is a healthy and effective approach to addressing drug and alcohol addiction and may even serve as motivation to enroll in a drug detox program later down the road.

Red Flags that Signal an Intervention is Necessary

If you believe your loved one is addicted to drugs or alcohol, he or she may need to complete a program at a detox center before he or she can enroll in an inpatient residential drug and alcohol rehab center. In some cases, an individual may not ask for help or seek treatment on their own. An intervention can serve as a starting point to get the ball rolling.

You may need to start planning for an intervention if you have experienced one or more of the following scenarios listed below.

  • Previous conversations with your loved one have done nothing to help. If you’ve already had brief conversations with your loved one about his or her drug and alcohol usage, this is the first sign that there is a serious problem. But if your loved one is unresponsive to these conversations, it may be time to plan a full intervention.
  • Your loved one is experiencing health problems related to their addiction. Drug and alcohol addiction is extremely harmful to the body and can cause serious medical conditions. It is not unlikely that a person may begin to experience health problems just weeks or months after engaging in risky drug and alcohol usage.
  • Your loved one’s behaviors are putting others in your household in danger. If your loved one’s actions are threatening the safety of you or others in your household, it’s time to take action. Violent behavior, in particular, should never be tolerated.
  • Your loved one’s habit is compulsive. If your loved one’s habit has become completely uncontrollable and compulsive, this is a strong sign that they are addicted. Examples of compulsive drug or alcohol abuse may include:2
    • Spending a great deal of time using or trying to acquire the substance
    • Starting each day off with substance use
    • Using a substance at school or work as a means to function normally
    • Giving up other hobbies or activities to use a substance instead
    • Failing to meet important obligations at school, home, or work because of substance use
  • Your loved one is displaying suicidal tendencies. If your loved one begins talking about suicide, cutting or harming himself or herself intentionally, or seems extremely depressed, an intervention is certainly necessary.
  • Your loved one is draining bank accounts to support his or her habit. Drug and alcohol abuse often leads to financial distress because addicted individuals will do just about anything to obtain their drug of choice. If your loved one is putting your family in financial distress due to irresponsible spending, an intervention may be the best way to take control of your finances and convince your loved one to enroll in a drug detox program.
  • Your loved one got into trouble with the law. If your loved one had a run-in with the police or is facing jail time or serious fines, the time for an intervention is now.

When to Hold an Intervention

Timing is one of the most difficult aspects of holding an intervention. Although it is ideal to stage an intervention as soon as you realize your loved one has an addiction problem, that may not always be possible. Just make sure to consider the following factors when choosing a time to hold an intervention:

  • State of mind – Wait until your loved one is sober to hold the intervention. If he or she is high or drunk while you’re trying to discuss the issue, he or she is much less likely to take you seriously, let alone be able to focus on the issue at hand.
  • Availability of participants – You’ll want to consider the availability of all those involved in the intervention before you decide on a day and a time.

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) actively promotes early intervention strategies to reduce the impact of substance use disorders in communities around the country. Despite the popular notion that family and friends should wait until a loved one hits rock bottom  before they intervene, data actually shows that early intervention following the first major episode of a disorder can make an impact.3

SAMHSA promotes the SBIRT approach, which stands for:

  • Screening – a process that identifies and assesses the presence and severity of substance use and provides recommendations for appropriate treatment
  • Brief Intervention provides insight and awareness of the substance abuse problem and motivates the individual to seek treatment
  • Referral to Treatmentprovides access to the appropriate level of treatment needed based on the results of the initial screening

The SBIRT approach provides opportunities for early intervention with at-risk substance users before they experience the more severe consequences of their substance abuse.4

If you’re having trouble staging an intervention, a professional interventionist may be able to help. Professional interventionists are trained to handle these situations, can help you plan, and will be able to provide guidance if the addicted individual reacts poorly to the intervention.

At Briarwood, we frequently work with clients who are struggling to get their loved ones to accept help and enroll in a drug and alcohol detox program. If you need assistance, please contact the Briarwood admissions team today. We may be able to help you get your loved one into drug detox or we may pair you with a professional interventionist, based on your circumstances and financial ability. Call (888) 857-0557 to speak with an admissions specialist at Briarwood today.



  1. https://www.associationofinterventionspecialists.org/learn-about-intervention/
  2. https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/media-guide/science-drug-abuse-addiction-basics
  3. https://www.samhsa.gov/prevention
  4. https://www.samhsa.gov/sbirt/about

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