Intervention Should Be A First Priority, Not The Last Resort

A brief history of Interventions

Sometimes family members mistakenly believe that conducting or orchestrating an intervention with a loved one who is suffering from addiction and whose life is out of control is the last resort. They may liken it to throwing someone a life preserver to aid in the steps to recovery. They also believe that interventions are a relatively new concept to utilize when seeking help for their loved ones. It may surprise you to learn that interventions originated in the 1960s!

It was in the 1960s when Dr. Vernon Johnson, an Episcopal priest and recovering alcoholic, concluded, according to a Wikipedia article:

…that an alcoholic did not need to “hit rock bottom” before recovery. ‘He introduced the concept of intervention by family, friends, and employers. He supported “early intervention”, because it interrupted the progression of the disease of alcoholism before the disease completely destroyed the alcoholic’s life.’


Learning about interventions via television

In 2005 A&E launched the television series INTERVENTION. For many people learning about this series and watching this series was their first exposure to the concept of an intervention. If you are a regular viewer, then you know that these episodes are dramatic sometimes ending with very good results and sometimes leaving the viewing public with a sense of a cliffhanger.  Almost always, the intervention is taking place with someone who is at or very near “rock bottom,” as opposed to early in their disease.

New research examines early intervention

In January 2013 there have been a number of articles published dealing with the efficacy of offering early intervention, particularly dealing with teenagers and college aged students. For example, in JAMA Psychiatry the research results were published first online from a study conducted in the United Kingdom:
Effectiveness of a Selective, Personality-Targeted Prevention Program for Adolescent Alcohol Use and Misuse.

An overview of the study…

This study was referred to as an “Adventure Trial” and the parameters were:

  • 21 schools in London were involved in the study
  • 2,548 students with an average age of 13.8 years were selected and classified as high or low risk of developing future alcohol dependency
  • High risk students’ profiles included personality traits like anxiety, impulsivity, sensation-seeking and hopelessness
  • Four members of staff in each intervention school were trained to deliver group workshops targeting the personality profiles

Study findings, according to PsychCentral:

  •  “After two years, high-risk students in intervention schools were at a 29 percent reduced risk of drinking, 43 percent reduced risk of binge drinking and 29 percent reduced risk of problem drinking compared to high-risk students in control schools.”
  •  “Additionally, over the two year period, low-risk teenagers in the intervention schools, who did not receive the intervention, were at a 29 percent reduced risk of taking up drinking and 35 percent reduced risk of binge drinking compared to the low-risk group in the non-intervention schools, indicating a possible ‘herd effect’ in this population.”


Intervention should be a first priority

Obviously, the study discussed above has to do with promoting efforts early on in a person’s life, while in middle school or high school, to help prevent or reduce the risk of one developing an addiction. And these efforts are to be applauded, but many times no matter how involved different social communities become in one’s life addiction can and will take hold. So what should family members do to help their loved one?

First and foremost, be aware. When you see signs of an addictive disorder, pay attention. Do not be afraid of asking non-judgmental questions. Secondly, talk to your family physician. Third, if you have other extended family members who have dealt with addiction, seek their counsel. Fourth, if your employer offers an Employee Assistance Program, then take advantage of its services.  And, finally but early on, contact an interventionist, discuss your options.

Consider an intervention for your loved one early on; don’t wait until you or your loved one is dealing with the physical, mental, financial and spiritual toll of addiction.

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