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Home » Drug abuse and addiction intervention: How it works – Medical News Today

Drug abuse and addiction intervention: How it works – Medical News Today

An intervention regarding substance use disorders is an approach that aims to reduce harm, improve safety, and promote better health and wellness. However, interventions are outdated and a nonpreferred method of helping someone experiencing a substance misuse disorder or other forms of addiction.
Interventions typically draw upon the Johnson Intervention model. In this understanding of addiction, a person must hit “rock bottom” before they are willing to seek care. A family intervention creates a crisis that encourages a person to see how harmful their addiction is, helping them reach rock bottom and accept treatment.
However, the notion of “rock bottom” is flawed and archaic. If someone is to hit rock bottom and then seek treatment but would then relapse, what message does that send? It implies they would then be below rock bottom, which could be a damaging notion in itself. It also suggests that a person’s life must worsen before they attempt recovery again.
Supporters of this approach believe that an intervention can create positive peer pressure. They also believe that an intervention can help a person see how severe their addiction is, encouraging them to accept treatment. That said, in reality, an intervention may make the individual feel attacked, exposed, and put on the spot. This may cause them to become increasingly guarded and perhaps hide their difficulties with addiction and the misuse or harmful use of substances, which can lead to poorer outcomes.
While interventions are popular, there is little scientific research assessing how well they work or compare to other interventions. Furthermore, the data that do exist are outdated. For example, a 1996 study found that people whose loved ones staged interventions were more likely to enter treatment than those who just received referrals for treatment. However, more recent research has not tested this claim.
Additionally, entering treatment does not equal optimal outcomes. Another older study from 1996 found that those who underwent Johnson Interventions were more likely to relapse than three out of four other interventions. This may be because the individual was not ready for treatment but felt forced to due to pressure from loved ones.
Keep reading to learn more about drug interventions, including how they work, potential benefits, and the risks and dangers.
An intervention involves family and friends confronting a person with an addiction to encourage them to seek treatment. During the intervention, loved ones express concern and describe the consequences of the addiction and outline what they will do if an individual refuses to undergo treatment.
The intervention is often a surprise confrontation. The goal is to coerce someone who may be resistant to treatment for their addiction into accepting treatment. In the ideal scenario, they recognize the consequences of their addiction and freely choose treatment following an intervention. However, a 2016 paper found that people whose loved ones staged an intervention found the process coercive, although individuals entering care for addiction voluntarily reported similar levels of coercion in this study. However, different sources, such as internal medical staff, also felt the coercion.
The risks of interventions include:
Despite no longer being a recommended strategy, several organizations certify interventionists who help oversee the intervention process. Their role is to ensure the intervention goes according to plan. When there is an interventionist involved, the process usually works as follows:
Some older research suggests that interventions can be effective. For example, an older study from 2008 compared groups who had a Johnson intervention to those who did not. The intervention group was more likely to complete treatment.
A 2009 study compared people who underwent interventions to people who had four other types of treatment referrals. The intervention group was more likely than any other group to go to treatment. Interventions and one other type of coercive referral had links with a higher chance of completing treatment.
However, completing treatment does not equal long-term recovery and sobriety. Research states that there are high rates of relapse in coerced individuals. Generally, this is why intervention is no longer an approach that experts recommend.
There is no recent scientific data comparing different intervention techniques. However, some tips that may help include:
The following are the potential benefits of staging an intervention:
People with an addiction can find help by consulting a family physician, mental health provider, or self-help program such as Narcotics Anonymous.
Addiction is a disease, not a moral failing. It is also treatable with a combination of medical care, detox support, psychotherapy, and lifestyle changes. Medications can also ease withdrawal, especially from drugs with intense withdrawal symptoms such as opioids.
It is not usually possible to force a person into treatment. However, an intervention exerts strong pressure to encourage someone to seek help or face serious consequences. It may be a suitable last resort when other options are ineffective.
Some other ways to support a person include:
Interventions are one of many strategies to help a person get treatment for addiction. However, they are not the only method, and the research supporting them is not robust.
Before trying any addiction management tactic, including interventions, it is important to learn as much as possible about the disease of addiction, including how it affects the person and those who love them. With this information, an individual can make thoughtful decisions that better help a person with a substance use disorder.
People who choose an intervention should prepare themselves for a difficult discussion that may have significant consequences for an entire family. If interventions fail, families may face conflict and estrangement, so it is important to set clear goals and work with a skilled intervention expert.
Last medically reviewed on March 12, 2022
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