For Families of Addicts


How to plan an interventionAn intervention is often the best way for someone suffering from drug or alcohol addiction to begin their path to recovery. People struggling with substance abuse are often suffering from denial about the extent of their problem, so hearing firsthand how their actions have affected their loved ones can serve as a wake-up call.

This article outlines how to plan an intervention that will motivate your loved one to seek the help he or she needs.

Create an Intervention Team

An intervention planning team typically involves a small group of concerned family members and friends. However, you should not include anyone in the planning process who does not get along well with your loved one, is known for having an uncontrollable temper, or who is also suffering from an untreated substance abuse or mental health issue. It is vital to the success of the intervention that everyone be able to work together for the good of your loved one.

A healthcare professional such as a licensed counselor, social worker, psychiatrist, or psychologist may be necessary if your loved one has a history of mental illness and/or violent behavior. A professional can help you structure the intervention to reduce the risk of an aggressive outburst or self-harming behavior.

If your loved one’s faith is an important part of their life, including a pastor or religious leader may be appropriate.

Gather Information

Once you have assembled your intervention team, take time to discuss the specific addiction-related behaviors that are concerning you. This might include:

  • Poor personal hygiene
  • Changes in eating habits characterized by weight gain or weight loss
  • Sleeping significantly more or less than usual
  • Mood swings
  • Trouble at work or school
  • Difficulty remembering important details
  • Lack of interest in hobbies or socializing

Ask each person on your intervention team to write down the specific behaviors they’ve witnessed, as well as how this has made them feel. You can use these notes to make sure everyone stays on track during the intervention meeting.

Research Treatment Options

After you present your loved one with an expression of your concerns, you’ll need to present your request for treatment. Research counseling options and inpatient rehabs in your area to determine what is appropriate for your loved one’s needs. Contact your insurance company to learn more about applicable health insurance benefits for substance abuse treatment.

Your goal is to be able to provide your loved one with a pre-arranged treatment plan that includes clear guidelines, steps, and goals for taking control of his or her addiction. Someone struggling with substance abuse may not be thinking clearly enough to make these decisions, so taking control of deciding what steps are necessary is a compassionate way to express your concern.

Decide on Consequences

The ideal outcome for an intervention is that your loved one will accept your request to get help. However, you must be prepared to be met with a denial of the problem and a refusal to listen to your request.

Each person on the intervention team should decide what the consequences will be for refusing treatment. This may include steps such as no longer being allowed to have unsupervised visits with children or grandchildren, cutting off social contact, or being asked to move out of the family home.

Hold the Intervention

It’s a good idea to schedule an intervention for the time of day when your loved one is least likely to be impaired by drugs or alcohol. In many cases, this means planning the meeting during the early morning hours.

When you hold your intervention, the meeting should be structured as follows:

  1. Everyone individually shares examples of behavior they’ve witnessed and how these actions have caused problems–expressing their concern without becoming judgmental or accusatory.
  2. The group presents the person with a prearranged treatment plan.
  3. Each person shares what consequences they’ve decided are appropriate for refusing to accept substance abuse treatment.
  4. The group asks for an immediate decision as to whether or not treatment will be accepted.

If the offer of help is accepted, you should be prepared to have the treatment begin immediately. If you’ll be using the services of an inpatient rehab facility, this means you should have a bag packed and be ready to transport your loved on to the facility when the intervention is over.

If treatment is refused, the members of the intervention team must be prepared to follow through with the consequences they’ve agreed to. This can be emotionally trying, but is a necessary part of the process.

By Dana Hinders

Personality traits related to addiction Although there is no one set addictive personality type, researchers who study the causes of addiction have found a number of traits that are closely linked to an increased risk of drug or alcohol abuse.

1. Impulsivity

Impulsive people are often viewed as fun to be around due to their spontaneous nature, but this personality trait has a serious dark side. People who are impulsive often don’t stop to think about the potential risk associated with a decision. They will go with whatever course of action seems like a good idea at the moment, which can often place them in risky situations involving drugs and alcohol.

The link between impulsivity and substance abuse can be seen in the high number of people with an ADHD diagnosis who also struggle with drug or alcohol addiction. Impulsivity is one of the defining personality traits associated with ADHD. Researchers have found that about 25% of adults in treatment for alcohol and substance abuse have been diagnosed with ADHD. This makes addiction five to 10 times more common in people with ADHD.

2. Nonconformity

People who are seeking addiction treatment often describe themselves as nonconformists. They consider themselves as fundamentally different from their peers due to their interests, values, and goals.

While the desire to embrace your individuality should be celebrated, feeling like you’re an outsider can lead to social isolation. This lack of perceived support from friends and/or family can increase the desire to turn to drugs and alcohol when faced with challenging situations.

3. Anxiety

People who suffer from anxiety can find themselves plagued with worries about personal relationships, fitting in, and managing everyday situations. They can suffer from physical complaints such as insomnia, panic attacks, stomach problems, dizziness, shortness of breath, and muscle tension that make it hard to focus on their daily activities. To calm the constant chatter in their minds, they may turn to drugs and alcohol.

People with high levels of anxiety often begin their journey to substance abuse by using cigarettes to calm their nerves. After they develop tolerance to nicotine, they start to add alcohol or benzodiazepines into the mix. The problem with this approach is that they eventually end up needing extremely high levels of all of these substances to approach the state of mental calm they crave.

4. Low Tolerance for Stress

Stress is a natural part of life. However, some people find it significantly more difficult to handle stressful situations, such as an argument with a romantic partner, a high stakes project at work, or an unexpected health crisis. People who don’t learn to develop positive coping mechanisms to handle their stress may turn to drugs and alcohol for temporary relief.

A low tolerance for stress is often associated with high anxiety levels. However, people can learn to increase their tolerance to stress with cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT).

5. Sensation Seeking

Sensation seeking refers to the desire to constantly seek out new experiences when placed in situations without a lot of sensory input. Everyone engages in sensation seeking behavior to some extent, but people who report high rates of this activity are most prone to addiction.

Sensation seekers are risk takers who enjoy pursuits such as engaging in adventure sports, attending loud concerts or parties, and traveling to meet new people. They are also more likely to drive recklessly and prefer having multiple sexual partners over stable relationships. In general, men and young adults have the highest rates of sensation seeking behavior—which can help explain why these groups also suffer from substance abuse issues at the highest rates.

6. Blame Shifting

Blame shifting refers to finding it difficult to take responsibility for your own mistakes. Substance abusers tend to exhibit this personality trait in higher than average numbers, often arguing that their drug or alcohol use isn’t a big deal or that they could quit using if they really wanted to.

Extreme blame shifting accompanied by a lack of empathy for others is associated with Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD). One recent study suggests that about 12% of people with substance abuse problems also meet the criteria for NPD.

What It Means

Most personality type research suggests that basic personality traits are inborn and can’t be changed. However, this doesn’t mean that someone with traits that are linked to addiction is destined to develop a drug or alcohol problem. It simply means that he or she is at a higher risk for addiction and needs to learn ways to channel the negative aspects of certain personality traits into a more positive direction.

By Dana Hinders

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Principles of effective addiction treatment

Every addiction treatment program aims to help clients stop using drugs or alcohol, stay sober, and become productive members of society. However, this doesn’t mean that all treatment programs are the same. If you’re considering addiction treatment for yourself or someone you love, it’s important to be aware of the basic principles that an effective treatment plan should be based on.

Addiction Is a Disease
Addiction isn’t a moral failing. It’s a disease that affects both brain function and behavior, with many studies indicating that addiction can be linked to specific genes and inherited personality traits.

Effective addiction treatment should stress empathy and compassion. Just as you wouldn’t chastise a patient for being diagnosed with cancer, people with drug and alcohol addiction don’t need to be judged for their past mistakes. They need treatment that heals their mind, body, and spirit.

Treatment Doesn’t Need to Be Voluntary to Be Effective
Ideally, someone suffering from addiction would realize the need to seek treatment and make positive life changes. However, treatment can still be beneficial even if an addict is in denial about the severity of his addiction.

Involuntary treatment can be court ordered or it can be arranged by a concerned family member, such as a spouse or parent. For young people in particular, early intervention can prevent an addiction from destroying a promising future.

Treatment Requires a Personalized Approach
When it comes to treating drug or alcohol addiction, there is no single treatment that’s right for everyone. Some people respond well to talk therapy individually or in a group, while others prefer to explore the issues surrounding their addiction in art therapy, music therapy, or other experiential therapies. There may also be special concerns, such as anxiety, depression, or an eating disorder, that need to be addressed in addition to drug or alcohol addiction.

Part of the personalized approach to addiction treatment requires that care plans be periodically reevaluated to ensure their effectiveness. For example, a counselor might determine that a client who is experiencing difficulty transitioning back to work may have moved through the steps of their plan too quickly and would benefit from additional time to develop positive coping skills for handling stressful situations.

Detox Is Just the First Step
Addiction treatment typically begins with a detox to help clients remove drugs and alcohol from their system. During this time, clients are monitored and given medication to help minimize painful or potentially dangerous withdrawal systems.

While detox is a necessary part of the treatment process, the initial experience of getting clean is just the beginning. Multiple studies have shown that people who receive no treatment following detoxification typically resume their drug or alcohol use a short time later.

Behavioral Therapy is Key
Behavioral therapy is a cornerstone of any effective addiction treatment program. Behavioral therapy aims to help substance abusers modify their attitude towards drug or alcohol use, increase healthy life skills, and provide the motivation necessary to persist with a long-term treatment plan.

In the early stages of residential treatment, clients may be scheduled for daily sessions. However, as they graduate to outpatient treatment, sessions will gradually become less frequent and focused on building an independent recovery.

Medication Can Help
Medication can be very effective when combined with behavioral therapies. Medications can be used during the detox process or to help prevent relapse, as long as their use is carefully monitored by trained professionals. For example, Methadone (Dolophine, Methadose), naltrexone (Vivitrol), and buprenorphine (Suboxone, Subutex, Probuphine) can be used to treat opioid addiction.

When substance abuse is linked to a desire to self-medicate a mental health disorder, medication can be used to get these underlying conditions under control. For example, antidepressants can stabilize the mood swings associated with depression and thus help reduce cravings for drugs and alcohol.

There’s No Quick Fix
Treating addiction takes time. Nobody develops an addiction overnight, so it’s unreasonable to expect that a treatment center will be able to work miracles in a few days. An addiction treatment program typically lasts at least 30 days, with extensive follow up care afterwards.


A person who struggles with drug and alcohol addiction won’t be “cured” when they leave a treatment facility. Addiction is a chronic illness that requires vigilance to prevent relapse, much like diabetics must pay careful attention to their blood sugar each day. Someone in recovery will still experience cravings and be faced with the temptation to use, but the skills they learned in treatment will allow them to make positive choices and set the stage for a brighter future.

By Dana Hinders

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