Help a loved one overcome addiction

Intervention: Help a loved one overcome addiction

An intervention can motivate someone to seek help for alcoholism, drug abuse, eating disorders or other addictive behaviors. Discover when to hold one and how to make it successful.

By Mayo Clinic staff

It can be challenging to help a loved one struggling with alcoholism, drug problems, an eating disorder or other destructive behavior. Sometimes a direct, heart-to-heart conversation can start the road to recovery. But when it comes to addiction, a more focused approach is often needed. You may need to join forces with others and take action through a formal intervention.

People who struggle with addictive behaviors are often in denial about their situation or are unwilling to seek treatment. Often they don’t recognize the negative effects their behavior has on themselves and others. An intervention presents your loved one a structured opportunity to make changes before things get even worse.

What is an intervention?

An intervention is a carefully planned process involving family and friends and sometimes colleagues, clergy members or others who care about a person struggling with addiction. During the intervention, these people gather together to confront the person about the consequences of addiction and ask him or her to accept treatment. The intervention:

  • Provides specific examples of destructive behaviors and their impact on the addicted person and loved ones
  • Offers a prearranged treatment plan with clear steps, goals and guidelines
  • Spells out what each person will do if a loved one refuses to accept treatment

Who might benefit from an intervention?

An intervention can help people who struggle with addictive behaviors but who are in denial about their situation or who have been unwilling to accept treatment. Some examples of behaviors that may warrant an intervention include:

  • Alcoholism
  • Prescription drug abuse
  • Abuse of street drugs
  • Eating disorders
  • Compulsive gambling

People with addiction often don’t see the negative effects their behavior has on them and others. It’s important not to wait until they “want help.” Instead, think of an intervention as giving your loved one a clear opportunity to make changes before things get really bad


treatment outcomes for adolescents

The study, part of NIDA’s ongoing Drug Abuse Treatment Outcome Studies for Adolescents (DATOS-A), analyzed data from 23 community-based adolescent treatment programs that addressed peer relationships, educational concerns, and family issues such as parent-child relationships and parental substance abuse. Successful elements of adult treatment programs, such as participation in group therapy and participation in a 12-step program, were also included in treatment plans.

“The results of this study are particularly impressive in light of the fact that the adolescents had multiple problems,” says Dr. Christine Grella of the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), Drug Abuse Research Center, one of the study’s investigators. “Although this is also typical of many adults in treatment, timely resolution of these problems is even more critical for adolescents. These young people are in the process of developing values, making lifestyle decisions, and preparing to assume adult roles and responsibilities, such as family and work; whereas when many adults enter treatment, they have completed this process.”

Treatment Programs Varied

Dr. Yih-Ing Hser, also of UCLA, led the research team that evaluated the treatment outcomes for 1,167 adolescents, age 11 to 18, who were admitted to one of the treatment programs between 1993 and 1995. The treatment centers, located in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; Minneapolis, Minnesota; Chicago, Illinois; and Portland, Oregon, included eight residential programs, nine outpatient drug-free programs, and six short-term inpatient programs.

The 418 adolescents in the residential treatment programs received education, individual and group counseling, and interventions to develop social responsibility. The 292 adolescents in the outpatient drug-free programs received education, skills training, and individual and group counseling. The 467 adolescents in short-term inpatient programs received counseling and a 12-step program. Family therapy was strongly emphasized, and adolescents in these programs were referred to continued outpatient treatment. The average length of treatment for adolescents in the residential, outpatient drug-free, and short-term inpatient programs was 5 months, 1.6 months, and 18 days, respectively.

The adolescents were interviewed when they began treatment and again 1 year after discharge by professional interviewers who were not employed by the treatment centers. Problem severity was determined at the initial interview according to a number of criteria. Dependence on drugs or alcohol was determined from standardized diagnostic measures. To validate self-reports of drug use, one-quarter of the participants were selected randomly to submit urine samples during the posttreatment interview.

Before treatment, 25 percent of the participants used three or more drugs, 36 percent were dependent on alcohol, 64 percent were dependent on marijuana, and 10 percent were dependent on cocaine. In addition to substance abuse problems, 63 percent were diagnosed with a mental disorder and 67 percent were criminally active.


In the year following treatment, more adolescents attended school and reported average or better-than-average grades.


Outcomes Overall

Research has indicated that in general the rate of drug and alcohol use tends to increase during adolescence. In the present study, however, improvements were observed in many of the areas evaluated, although some of the participants did not complete their treatment program. Comparing the year before treatment to the year after treatment, the adolescents showed significant declines in the use of marijuana and alcohol, which are considered to be the major drugs of abuse for this age group. Weekly or more frequent marijuana use dropped from 80 percent to 44 percent, and abstinence from any use of other illicit drugs increased from 52 percent to 58 percent. Heavy drinking decreased from 34 percent to 20 percent, and criminal activity decreased from 76 percent to 53 percent. Adolescents also reported fewer thoughts of suicide, lower hostility, and higher self-esteem. In the year following treatment, more adolescents attended school and reported average or better-than-average grades. Some exceptions to the general pattern of improvement were that overall, cocaine and hallucinogen use did not improve during the year after treatment.

Treatment Length and Outcomes

Previous research indicates that a minimum of 90 days of treatment for residential and outpatient drug-free programs and 21 days for short-term inpatient programs is predictive of positive outcomes for adults in treatment. Better treatment outcomes were reported among adolescents who met or exceeded these minimum lengths of treatment than for those who did not. Among the treatment participants, 58 percent of those in residential programs, 27 percent in outpatient drug-free programs, and 64 percent in short-term inpatient programs met or exceeded the minimum stay. In the year following treatment, those who met or exceeded the minimum treatment were 1.52 times more likely to abstain from drug and alcohol use and 1.2 times more likely to not be involved in criminal activity. In addition, these adolescents were 1.34 times more likely to have average or better-than-average grades.

This study confirms that community-based drug treatment programs designed for adolescents can reduce substance abuse and have a positive impact on many other aspects of their life, says Dr. Tom Hilton of NIDA’s Division of Epidemiology, Services and Prevention Research. These results justify new research to identify the key elements common to effective treatment programs for adolescents, he noted.




Who Does Co-dependency Affect?

Co-dependency often affects a spouse, a parent, sibling, friend, or co-worker of a person afflicted with alcohol or drug dependence. Originally, co-dependent was a term used to describe partners in chemical dependency, persons living with, or in a relationship with an addicted person. Similar patterns have been seen in people in relationships with chronically or mentally ill individuals. Today, however, the term has broadened to describe any co-dependent person from any dysfunctional family.


Questionnaire To Identify Signs Of Co-dependency

This condition appears to run in different degrees, whereby the intensity of symptoms are on a spectrum of severity, as opposed to an all or nothing scale. Please note that only a qualified professional can make a diagnosis of co-dependency; not everyone experiencing these symptoms suffers from co-dependency.

1. Do you keep quiet to avoid arguments? 2. Are you always worried about others’ opinions of you? 3. Have you ever lived with someone with an alcohol or drug problem? 4. Have you ever lived with someone who hits or belittles you? 5. Are the opinions of others more important than your own? 6. Do you have difficulty adjusting to changes at work or home? 7. Do you feel rejected when significant others spend time with friends? 8. Do you doubt your ability to be who you want to be? 9. Are you uncomfortable expressing your true feelings to others? 10. Have you ever felt inadequate? 11. Do you feel like a “bad person” when you make a mistake? 12. Do you have difficulty taking compliments or gifts? 13. Do you feel humiliation when your child or spouse makes a mistake? 14. Do you think people in your life would go downhill without your constant efforts? 15. Do you frequently wish someone could help you get things done? 16. Do you have difficulty talking to people in authority, such as the police or your boss? 17. Are you confused about who you are or where you are going with your life? 18. Do you have trouble saying “no” when asked for help? 19. Do you have trouble asking for help? 20. Do you have so many things going at once that you can’t do justice to any of them?

If you identify with several of these symptoms; are dissatisfied with yourself or your relationships; you should consider seeking professional help. Arrange for a diagnostic evaluation with a licensed physician or psychologist experienced in treating co-dependency.

Dealing with Addiction and Family during the Holidays

The holidays can be a stressful time even for relatively healthy individuals. Addicts, who are typically dealing with some form of emotional problem, are extremely vulnerable during this season. Although an addicted loved one may have abused the trust of family and friends, it is important to remember that addiction is a symptom of profound unhappiness. No one wants to be an addict, and most people have reached a point of desperation in coping with life.

During the holidays, most addicts are gripped with shame and loneliness because they are even more aware than ever that their addictive behavior creates an emotional wall between them and the people they care about. With the holiday spirit of family and friendship, and the increased danger of depression and other negative outcomes, the holidays may be a great time to reach out to a loved one who is struggling with substance abuse.

The holidays can also put a strain on individuals who are recovering from addiction. Family gatherings can be emotionally stressful and can trigger unhealthy coping mechanisms. However, loved ones can provide essential support for those who are in recovery to help them avoid emotional pitfalls, deal with cravings, and find joy in the holiday season.

A little planning ahead can go a long way to help avoid relapses, hurtful situations, and tragic consequences. Here are some tips for holiday gatherings for those who are recovering, and for those who love someone in recovery:

• Take the focus off of alcoholic beverages. Downplay alcohol consumption and emphasize other activities like talking, music, games, or sports.

• Provide non-alcoholic alternatives, and avoid calling attention to the fact that someone isn’t drinking alcohol. You may not know the whole story.

• When cravings hit, try eating something sweet. Sugar can help satisfy the part of the brain that triggers cravings for alcohol and opiates.

• If you are in recovery, consider taking a friend who has achieved long-term sobriety with you to gatherings. This person will understand your situation be able to provide effective support during tough moments.

• If you are feeling stress or overwhelmed, take some time out. Go for a walk with a friend, take a quick nap. Being tired can deplete your willpower and ability to cope with stressful situations.

Family Coaching

What is Family Coaching? Family coaching provides support to the family members of an individual who has a substance abuse disorder and or mental health issue. Families can learn to ways to cope mentally and emotionally and make the necessary changes to find the way out, of what can be, a self – defeating situation. A family coach will teach and facilitate learning practical skills plus give emotional support via phone. The family coach can be available multiple times; a day, weekly, or on an as-needed basis, as opposed to the traditional therapy model of having to meet in person once or twice a week. Family coaching can be self-directed by the family with supportive and comprehensive coaching. This is a service that is not intimidating and is ultimately respectful of all the family’s needs. Some of the challenges for families include; Substance Abuse, Anger Outbursts, Depression, Mental Health Disorders, Eating Disorders, and Self-defeating Behaviors. These are a few of the problems that families struggle with when they reach a point where they CANNOT do it anymore and Can Am Intervention Services is here to help.


“The number of individuals suffering from addiction and related mental health issues has continued to rise and the effects of Chemical Dependency have not only affected the individuals that are addicted it has a large effect on their families.”

Mission and Vision Statement

Can Am Addiction Intervention Services will provide addiction intervention / treatment services and consultation to individuals and their families to clear the path to recovery and facilitate freedom from the devastating and deadly disease of addiction. Across the border and across addictions we will provide a caring yet effective and individualized approach to intervention / treatment and on-going recovery services resulting in a new way of life.