Tips for Alcohol Interventions

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What is an Alcohol Intervention?

Approximately 5.3 percent of people aged 12 and over in the U.S. have an alcohol use disorder (AUD).2

The number of people who have problems with alcohol may be even larger. Around 25.8 percent reported binge drinking, and 6.3 percent revealed heavy alcohol use in the past month.2

Many people who drink alcohol can reduce their intake without any professional treatment. However, many can't do it alone.

Friends and family members may decide to stage an intervention to convince someone with alcohol use issues that they have a problem.

An intervention is a meeting in which you address your loved one.

In the meeting, you explain that you're worried about their:

  • Substance use
  • Physical and mental health
  • Wellbeing

By holding an intervention, you can try to direct your loved one toward a:

  • Doctor
  • Detox facility
  • Support group

These options can help them face the realities of addiction and put them on the path toward recovery.

Benefits of Alcohol Interventions

An intervention allows friends and family members to offer their loved ones the opportunity to accept their problem and heal from it.

It can also enable friends and relatives to give examples of how alcoholism has been destructive and has hurt the addicted person and the people around them.

A planned intervention can also give healthcare professionals and family members the chance to explain a treatment program they think will work best.

Finally, it can present the addict with the consequences of their actions if they decide not to accept treatment.

How Do You Structure an Intervention?

An intervention usually involves the following structure.

1. Planning

Interventions usually require planning, thought, and attention to the loved one’s needs and specific circumstances.

It may be a good idea to contact one of the following to plan the meeting:

  • Doctor
  • Social worker
  • Therapist
  • Professional interventionist

For the best chances of a successful intervention, you may decide to invite them to participate. This allows them to give essential medical and treatment information and advice.

2. Preparing Others for the Intervention

The intervention can be an extremely dramatic and emotional experience.

It can create feelings of betrayal, anger, or resentment from the person suffering from alcohol problems.

Again, it may be best to speak to a healthcare professional to understand how to respond to these reactions.

3. Gathering a Team

Several people should be present during an intervention. First is the person with the addiction.

When approached, understand that your loved one is likely to refuse to take part. Or, they may leave the meeting. More than one intervention may be required.

Friends and family members should also attend an intervention. If the addict is a child, usually a parent leads the intervention.

If the person suffering from an alcohol or substance use disorder is married, their partner typically leads the meeting.

Facing an alcohol use disorder can be lonely and scary. Seeing how many close friends and relatives turn up to offer support may be an encouraging boost of support to help the addict begin to change their life.

Loved ones are often the first to begin helping the alcoholic start recovery.

4. Giving Consequences

In many cases, the first time an addict is approached with an intervention, they walk away.

The intervention team should respond with consequences that prove how serious they are. 

Consequences depend on the person's circumstances but may include:

  • Losing visitation rights with children 
  • Asking them to move out of the home until they're ready to start treatment
  • Taking away their car

5. Sharing

During an intervention, each team member should speak.

This helps the person suffering from alcohol and drug use understand each team members' concerns and feelings about their wellbeing.

6. Offer Treatment Options

Once every team member has spoken, the person suffering from addiction should receive detailed suggestions for a treatment plan.

The loved one can accept the offer on the spot. Or, the team may be willing to offer them a few days to come to a decision.

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Consulting an Addiction Professional

Consulting an addiction specialist can help you arrange an effective intervention.

An addiction expert will:

  • Consider your loved one’s specific circumstances
  • Recommend the best approach for the intervention
  • Help guide you in what type of treatment and plan will likely work best

Interventions are typically performed without a professional. However, having expert help may be better.

Sometimes the intervention takes place at the professional’s office.

It's usually important for a professional to attend the intervention to help you remain on track if your loved one:

  • Has a history of severe mental illness
  • Has a history of violence
  • Has displayed suicidal behavior or recently spoken about suicide
  • May be taking various mood-altering substances

It's essential to consult an intervention professional if you think your loved one may react aggressively or self-destructively.

Who Should Be On the Intervention Team?

An intervention team usually consists of four to six people important in the life of your loved one.

They're typically people they love, respect, like, or depend on.

They can include a:

  • Best friend
  • Relative
  • Member of your loved one’s faith

If you hire an intervention professional, they can help you decide on members for the team.

Don't include anyone who:

  • Your loved one dislikes
  • Has a current mental health problem or substance abuse issue
  • May not be able to control what they say
  • May sabotage the intervention

If you think it's essential to have someone involved but worry that it may start a problem, have that person write a short letter that someone else can read aloud at the intervention.

What's the Success Rate of Interventions?

The addiction treatment and medical industries widely consider that interventions are an impactful and effective method for encouraging people to seek help from alcohol and drug addiction.

Approximately 90 percent of people seek alcoholism treatment when the intervention is performed correctly.

Additionally, people approached about their AUD are more likely to attend a rehab or detox facility. As such, they're likely to remain sober than those who weren't approached.

How Do You Evaluate an Intervention?

A successful intervention depends on your loved one’s specific circumstances.

Definitions of success can differ from complete abstinence to a significant reduction in use. Or it may be showing up to a therapy or treatment appointment.

Usually, success is based on anything that's a considerable improvement over the previous circumstances.

It all depends on:

  • Who's being asked
  • Their circumstances
  • What's viewed as successful change

A family’s main goal for an intervention may be to stop their loved ones from drinking until they blackout every night rather than making them quit altogether.

In this case, their evaluation of success may differ considerably from others.

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If Your Loved One Refuses Help

Unfortunately, interventions aren't always successful. In some cases, your loved one may reject the treatment plan. They may become angry or insist that help isn't necessary.

Or, they may be resentful and accuse you of betrayal. It's best to emotionally prepare yourself for these situations while remaining calm and hopeful for positive change.

If your loved one doesn't accept treatment, be ready to follow through with the changes you showed them.

Often, friends and family experience the following due to alcohol and drug problems:

  • Abuse
  • Violence
  • Threats
  • Emotional attacks

Remember, you don't have control over the behavior of your loved one with an addiction.

However, you can remove yourself and your children from a dangerous situation. Even if an intervention is unsuccessful, you and others involved in your loved one’s life can make adjustments that may help.

Ask other people involved to stop enabling the destructive cycle of behavior and take steps to encourage positive change.

Can Someone Stop Drinking On Their Own?

No matter how severe the alcohol addiction problem may seem, most people can benefit from some treatment type.

One-third of people who receive treatment for alcohol problems have no further symptoms one year later. Many others significantly reduce their alcohol consumption and report fewer alcohol-related issues.4  

There are various types of alcohol treatment methods available.

However, there's no one-size-fits-all solution. What may work for one person may not for another.

Treatment options include:

Behavioral Treatments

Behavioral treatments help change drinking behavior through counseling. They're led by health professionals and typically take place at treatment centers.

Medications

There are 3 medications approved in the United States to help people stop or reduce problem drinking and prevent relapse.

Health professionals prescribe these medications. They can be used alone or combined with other treatments such as detox or counseling.

Support Groups

Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and other twelve-step programs offer peer support for people quitting or reducing their alcohol intake. When combined with other treatments led by health professionals, support groups can benefit. 

However, due to the anonymous nature of support groups, it's challenging for researchers to evaluate the success rates compared with healthcare professionals' treatments.

Updated on January 10, 2022
6 sources cited
  1. Results from the 2014 National Survey on Drug Use and Health: Detailed Tables, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA)
  2. Alcohol Facts and Statistics, National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIH), October 2020
  3. Liepman, M R et al. “Evaluation of a program designed to help family and significant others to motivate resistant alcoholics into recovery.” The American journal of drug and alcohol abuse vol. 15,2 : 209-21
  4. Treatment for Alcohol Problems: Finding and Getting Help, National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIH), 2014
  5. Kaner, Eileen Fs et al. “Effectiveness of brief alcohol interventions in primary care populations.” The Cochrane database of systematic reviews vol. 2,2 CD004148. 24 Feb. 2018
  6. Moyer, Anne, and John W Finney. “Brief interventions for alcohol misuse.” CMAJ : Canadian Medical Association journal = journal de l'Association medicale canadienne vol. 187,7 : 502-506

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All content created by Alcohol Rehab Help is sourced from current scientific research and fact-checked by an addiction counseling expert. However, the information provided by Alcohol Rehab Help is not a substitute for professional treatment advice.

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