What is drug intervention?

What Is Drug Intervention?

Learn more about tips for planning an addiction intervention and what to do if it isn’t immediately successful.

Importance of Drug Intervention

Helping a loved one who is addicted to drugs or alcohol can feel like an impossible feat. People with substance use disorders often don’t see their situations realistically. Sometimes, an addiction intervention is necessary to help someone understand their behavior and the danger it could pose.

What is Drug Intervention?

“Intervention for addicts,” more sensitively termed drug addiction intervention, is a carefully planned process that is typically led by a professional addiction intervention specialist and includes a limited number of family and friends. With the help of a licensed drug and alcohol counselor or certified interventionist, the person’s loved ones gather to confront them about their symptoms and need for treatment. This is commonly referred to as “staging an intervention.” 1
drug intervention group of people

In this Article

Who Should be on the Addiction Intervention Team?

The addiction intervention team is limited to people the interventionist believes will have the most positive impact on the process. During the drug addiction intervention, it is typical for participants to have planned statements that include any boundaries they will draw if the person refuses to enter treatment. For example, a partner might refuse to continue the relationship, or a parent might refuse to give their adult child financial support.
The goal of an addiction intervention is to get the individual into treatment. In most cases, the interventionist will prearrange admittance into a rehab facility that is most appropriate for that specific person.

Signs Your Loved One Needs Addiction Intervention

If you have done everything you can think of to help your loved one, but they still refuse to get treatment, it may be time to seek professional addiction intervention services. Signs that it’s time for an intervention for addiction include:
  • Changes in physical health and body
  • Lying and other deceptive behavior
  • Neglect of responsibilities, such as work or children
  • A decline in mental health, such as mood swings, violent behavior, or depression
  • A strong focus on funding and facilitating drug use
  • Engaging in risky behavior, such as driving under the influence or engaging in dangerous sexual behavior

If you feel a need to hide your own prescription medications or valuable possessions when your loved one comes to visit, that is a sign that they need help. It may be time to stage an intervention.

Different Types of Addiction Interventions

There are several techniques that may be used for planning an addiction intervention. The most frequently used types are listed below.

Crisis Intervention

This method of drug intervention is a short-term technique typically reserved for individuals in a crisis situation. Overdosing on drugs or being diagnosed with cirrhosis of the liver due to alcohol use disorder are times when crisis intervention might be used.


In these cases, the “SAFER-R” model is applied and consists of:
  • Stabilization
  • Acknowledgment
  • Facilitating understanding
  • Encouragement
  • Recovery
  • Referral
The goal of crisis intervention is not necessarily meant to get a person to accept drug treatment but to restore physical, emotional, and psychological balance after trauma.

Brief Intervention

Brief interventions are used by social workers, therapists, hospital emergency personnel, and drug counselors to help people who are unable or unwilling to enter treatment. For example, a therapist might encourage the cessation of drug use and provide the client with resources, such as local 12-Step programs, to assist with that goal.

The Johnson Model

The Johnson Model of addiction intervention is the most commonly used type of intervention for drug addiction, according to the Association of Intervention Specialists (AIS). It was developed in the 1970s by Dr. Vernon Johnson and was an innovation in drug intervention programs in its time.2

The seven main components of the Johnson Model of addiction intervention include:
  • Team
  • Planning
  • Focus on care
  • Addiction only (discussions are limited to addiction, not general grievances)
  • Evidence
  • The primary goal is the treatment
  • Treatment options are offered
This method of intervention seeks to involve the family and encourage the person to get help, not to criticize or insult them.

Family Systemic Intervention

The Family Systemic approach to addiction intervention is similar to the Johnson Model, but it focuses more on the entire family. A blend of family therapy and addiction intervention techniques is applied to encourage the person to enter treatment and to get all involved family members into therapy.


The ARISE style of addiction intervention includes the person with a substance use disorder from the beginning. There are no surprise meetings and no coercion to enter treatment. The process begins with a free phone consultation with a certified ARISE addiction intervention specialist. The hope is that the person will agree to treatment after several intervention network meetings. However, if they do not agree, family members may offer consequences for refusal at a final meeting. According to AIS, 83% of ARISE participants agree to treatment before a Level 3 meeting is needed. 3


SMART Recovery is a non-12-Step, science-based approach to addiction recovery. SMART intervention services for addiction are an alternative to confrontational intervention styles. It relies on a motivational system of Community Reinforcement and Family Training (CRAFT) to encourage individuals to accept treatment.4

How to Do an Intervention for Drug Addiction

If it is time to stage an addiction intervention for your loved one, remember that whatever intervention method is used, it is always best to avoid criticism, insults, and blaming. Your loved one will likely feel defensive and vulnerable already. The goal of using addiction intervention strategies is to get them help. There will be time to work out personal issues later in the treatment process.

Intervention Steps

Follow these steps to increase the chances of success with your drug intervention:

  • Get help: Speak with an experienced intervention specialist.
  • Make a plan: Meet with the specialist and a family member or friend to decide the best course of action.
  • Gather information: The planning group should find out all they can about the person’s situation and the severity of the substance use disorder.
  • Form the team: It is typically recommended to invite only a handful of close friends and family members to participate in an intervention. Choose members who will not be drawn into conflict and will maintain focus on the goal.
  • Manage expectations: Not every intervention for drug addiction will be successful, and not all people who enter treatment stay in recovery long term. Accept the possibility that your loved one may not accept help at this time.
  • Write impact statements: Impact statements are typically written in letter form, telling the individual how the situation has impacted your life..
  • Set boundaries: Boundaries are the consequences the person will face if they don’t accept help.
  • Offer help: Treatment plans should already be in place before the drug intervention begins.
  • Follow up: Seek individual counseling for yourself as needed, join AA, or organize other loved ones to take turns contacting the person in treatment to let them know they are loved and supported.

Things to Avoid During a Drug Addiction Intervention

To increase the chances of a successful drug addiction intervention, avoid the following:

  • Being judgmental
  • Being upset during the intervention
  • Dredging up old complaints, such as negative things the person did while intoxicated
  • Negative words like alcoholic, junkie, or drug addict

Intervention requires patience and a willingness to focus on the goal or recovery. Maintaining a calm, compassionate atmosphere can help your loved one remain open to hearing you out. When you approach someone from a place of concern and love, your message can have a powerful impact.

Drug intervention -geoup of people supporting each other

The Best Treatment Program to Offer at the Addiction Intervention

It is natural for emotions to run high at an intervention. Even when team members do an excellent job of remaining calm and encouraging, being confronted about substance use is upsetting. If the person gets too upset to listen, calm things down and take a break. There is no time limit on an addiction intervention.

Refusal of Treatment

If your loved one refuses to accept help despite the addiction intervention, it is vital that you uphold any boundaries that were established during the process. Avoid any negotiating or bartering. Your loved one may be upset with you, but sticking to your boundaries may eventually convince them to seek treatment at a later time. If you did not work with an intervention specialist, consider trying again with the help of a professional. A second intervention may be more effective when your loved one has had time to consider their treatment options.

Healing at Alta Centers

Alta Centers offers addiction treatment programs, including consultation with addiction professionals who can assist with addiction intervention planning and facilitation. Call Alta Centers today to learn more about planning an intervention and the programs that can help your loved one break the cycle of addiction.