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Drug and Alcohol Abuse Intervention


A drug abuser usually does not know he is out of control. He looks at his drug-using peers and his own use appears normal in comparison. He needs objective feedback on his behavior.


It was once thought that alcohol and drug abusers had to "hit bottom" before help could be offered and accepted. This is based on the idea that a drug abuser could only get better if he was self-motivated to change. This view has changed to the idea that a skilled professional (counselor) can motivate an abusers toward recovery. This is called intervention.



Drug abuse intervention is a process that helps an abuser recognize the extent of his problem. Through a non-judgmental, non-critical, systematic process, the drug addict is confronted with the impact of his alcohol or drug use on others. The goal of drug abuse intervention is for him to accept the reality of his drug abuse and to seek help.




Q) If an abuser is unwilling to seek help, is there any way to get him into treatment?


A) This can be a challenging situation. An abuser cannot be forced to get help except under certain circumstances, such as when a violent incident results in police being called or following a medical emergency. This doesn’t mean, however, that you have to wait for a crisis to make an impact. Based on clinical experience, many treatment specialists recommend the following steps to help an addict accept treatment.


The Steps of Drug Addiction Intervention


1. Stop all “rescue missions.” Family members often try to protect an abuser from the results of his behavior by making excuses to others about his abuse problem and by getting him out of drug-related jams. It is important to stop all such rescue attempts immediately, so that the addict will fully experience the harmful effects of his use. The addict will thereby become more motivated to stop.


2. Don’t enable him. Sometimes family members feel sorry for the addict or tend to avoid the abuser and let him come and go as he pleases. This comes across to the abuser as a reward, after all, all he wants is to be left alone. Be careful not to reward by paying his bills, bailing him out of jail, letting him stay for free, etc. This kind of reward creates a one way exchange in favor of the addict and encourages criminal behavior.


3. Time your drug abuse intervention. If possible, plan to talk with the addict when he is straight. Find a time when all of you are in a calm frame of mind and when you can speak privately.


4. Be specific. Tell the family member that you are concerned about his drug or alcohol abuse and want to be supportive in getting help. Back up your concern with examples of the ways in which his drug abuse has caused problems for you, including any recent incidents.


5. State the consequences. Tell the family member that until he gets help, you will carry out consequences. This is not intended to punish the drug abuser, but to protect yourself from the harmful effects of the abuse. These may range from refusing to be with the person when they are under the influence, to having them move out of the house. DO NOT make any threats you are not prepared to carry out. The basic intention is to make the abuser’s life more uncomfortable if he continues using drugs than it would be for him to get help.


6. Find strength in numbers with the help of family members, relatives, and friends to confront the abuser as a group. Choose one person to be the initial spokesperson. It will be much more effective for the others to simply be there nodding their heads, than it would be for everyone to talk at once and “gang up on him.” Remember the idea is to make it safe for him to come clean and seek help.


7. Listen. If during your drug abuse intervention the abuser begins asking questions like; Where would I have to go? For how long? This is a sign that he is reaching for help. Do not directly answer these questions. Instead have him call in to talk to a professional. Support him. Don’t wait. Once you’ve gotten his agreement, get him admitted immediately. Therefore, you should have a bag packed for him, any travel arrangements made, and prior acceptance into a program.


 

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