When Do I Need to Hold an Intervention?

How Do I Know It's Time

I've helped hundreds of families over the years as a professional interventionist, and I've seen a lot of scenarios. It's difficult to know when there's the need for an intervention. Many believe that they can simply talk to the addict in question and lay their emotions out on the table, and then everything will change in their loved one's mind.

It doesn't always work like that. In fact, it rarely works like that. Depending on how severe an addiction is, the “point of no return,” when they consciously decide that they have a problem, may have been two exits back. This is when you need an intervention, when there's nothing that can be done except delivering ultimatums and having a thorough discussion. Detox and rehab still need to be the choice of the addict, whether or not that was due to emotional reasons shared with them by their family and friends during an intervention. They need to walk through those doors with the desire to get, and stay, clean.

Sometimes, families can stage interventions that actually work and help their loved ones, but they need to know the signs to look for before the addiction becomes so heavy. If you've never been around someone who's suffering from addiction in the past, it can be difficult to spot the signs for yourself.

Here's a list of some of the most common signs that should raise some red flags in your mind.

Dodgy Behavior Patterns

When you know someone, you know when something is amiss. Their behavior changes, they have sudden schedule changes that just don't seem to fit right, and they go out late at night when they have no apparent destination. Noticing changes in behavior is usually the first step towards evaluating whether something isn't right, whether it's addiction or something else.

Increased Tolerance

Have they been refilling their prescription medication repeatedly? Do they need an extra few bottles of beer each night to get that same effect? Their body is building up a tolerance to their vice, and they require more of it each and every time to reach the same high or same state of drunkenness. The addict adds more and more of their vice to their daily life or ritual, and they run a higher risk of overdosing as each day goes on.

Mental Fog

Often forgetting something that just happened or taking longer than usual to come back with a response are both signs that their head is in a fog, either due to drug use or alcoholism. It's imperative not to brush this off as them just being tired, at least when this becomes a consistent issue. Don't make up excuses for their behavior, and see if it persists or worsens.

Changes In Appearance

We all have lazy days where we don't want to switch out of sweatshirts and pajama bottoms. However, when this becomes a habit, it's either depression or addiction. More often than not, when the only center of an addict's life is their vice of choice, their appearance is the last thing on their mind. Personal and oral hygiene, as well as the cleanliness of their clothes, all become second to the fix they’re searching for.

Enhanced Emotions

This usually manifests itself in the form of unchecked aggression or rage. When you ask them where they're headed so late at night, they may get immediately agitated and defensive. Nobody is proud to be addicted to drugs, which is why they sneak out at night and deny everything. Being accused, even silently, can immediately set them off to a level of explosive anger, and the impact of the drug in their system is directly to blame.

Barely Getting By

Drug addiction isn't free, and it certainly isn't cheap. More often than not, drug dealers will offer their first few fixes for free, only to reveal the true cost of how much their supply is actually worth. At this point, money starts becoming an issue. If they were living a lavish lifestyle before, or were at least the type of person to never borrow money or pawn their possessions, it's all about to change. When they lose their job, begin lowering their lifestyle capabilities, and start suffering financial difficulties, there's a good chance they're falling deeper into addiction.


Addicts have a great deal going on mentally, that someone who's never used drugs simply won't understand. They become lost in themselves, because they know others will disapprove. They isolate themselves away in their rooms, stop attending social events, even obligatory ones, and overall become difficult to reach or find.

Their Wellbeing

Fatal drug overdoses are reported multiple times every day in the United States, sometimes hourly. It's not just a matter of getting their lives back on track, it's a matter of saving them. Interventions have proven to be the most effective tool at our disposal to rope our loved ones back into their lives, to show them that there are people who care about them, and they don't need their vice of choice to feel alive.

Choosing to stage an intervention, or hire an interventionist to help you with it, isn't an easy choice. Those staging the intervention often feel like they're somehow betraying their loved one or at least cornering them. The fact of the matter is, this is one way you know that it's time to initiate an intervention. When the fear of losing them in any way becomes so great, it's telling you something.

You're Not the Only One Thinking It

If your family has been quiet about your loved one's behavior, it may be out of fear or the inability to cope with something they have never dealt with before. You're not alone; there's definitely another member of your immediate family that's been thinking the very same thing.

Bringing it out into the open is a touchy subject. You're only interested in helping your loved one, but not everybody may see it that way. You don't want to wait until it becomes blatantly obvious, but you don't want to jump to conclusions. If you've read these signs and symptoms to look for, and you're seeing a lot of similarities, it may be up to you to inform the rest of your family that it's time for an intervention.

Types of Interventions

There are four different types of interventions, and which one is used depends on the severity of the addiction and the personality of the addict.

One-on-One with a Loved One

If the issue is new and not especially severe, it may be beneficial for the most influential family member to have a one-on-one conversation with the potential addict and ask them what's going on. In these situations, especially if the addict is particularly fond of the family member in question, there's a good chance that they're going to listen to their concerns, and submit to seeking help.

Classic Intervention

This is what's been glorified on reality television shows. The most prominent members of the family concoct a plan, often with the assistance of a professional interventionist, and execute the intervention in the hopes of reaching through to their loved ones with their presence and ultimatums. These are also tricky, as at this point, it's common for the addict to already be high or feeling agitated from not being able to achieve their high. They are emotionally compromised, and everything is intensified.

Family System Intervention

There's nothing more detrimental to the healing process, and difficult to overcome, than immediate family members each being hooked on the same substance. There is no shame. Nothing is hidden from one another; they indulge in their addiction openly with one another. These can be some of the most difficult revelations to achieve, as you have more than one individual who can look to each other, and shrug off the concerns of their loved ones.

Interventions Rooted In Crisis

 If there has been a recent, non-fatal overdose, it can often be the wake-up call that an addict needs. However, they shouldn't go this road alone. While it has been proven that the scare of actually dying can help an addict to see what's important and make a change, this isn't always the case. The presence of family and friends, with the mindset of coaching them towards a clean life, can be one of the greatest tools for them to use in their road to recovery.

At What Stage Is It too Late for an Intervention?

It's never too late. When you know that your loved one is suffering, you should absolutely do something to help them. An intervention is properly timed when the addict is still suffering and still breathing. There's never a wrong time to do something right.

The further that an addict delves into their indulgences, whatever their vice is, the harder it is to pull them back. Therefore, it takes more work. This shouldn't be discouraging—there's still hope. There's always still hope that you can help them through an intervention, and free their lives of their crutch.

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