Signs It Is Time for an Intervention

Father looking at his son

There is a false narrative that the only way a person can get help for their addiction is to be 100% committed to doing so at the beginning of their treatment process. While it is true that a willingness and desire to get better do make a difference in the likelihood of someone staying sober, 100% commitment at the outset is not a requirement for treatment to work. Addiction rehab is an excellent option for people who desire to get sober but are either still on the fence about it or have external pressure to get better. While willingness is a factor and addiction treatment must be voluntary, the level of willingness a person possesses can vary greatly from minute to minute. As a result, external pressures, sanctions, or enticements placed on the individual can help solidify the resolve of someone who isn’t 100% committed to sobriety. A publication by The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) states that “Sanctions or enticements from family, employment settings, and/or the criminal justice system can significantly increase treatment entry, retention rates, and the ultimate success of drug treatment interventions.”

Sometimes it can be challenging to know whether or not an intervention is a good idea. Below are some common signs that it may be time to consider having an intervention on a loved one struggling with substance abuse.

They continue to use despite experiencing negative consequences.

Adverse consequences are not only a common sign of addiction but are also a good sign that your loved one may need to talk to someone about their substance abuse problem. When a person continues to drink or use drugs despite the negative consequences they are experiencing; it is a sign that they have a severe issue that needs attention. The longer a person continues to use when their addiction has gotten to this point, the more likely they will have legal problems or other long-lasting consequences. The sooner they can get help for their addiction, the better.

They have an addiction but are resistant to getting help.

Sometimes people can hide their addiction from their loved ones for a time, and other times it is glaringly apparent. If your loved one very clearly has a substance abuse issue, but they won’t consider getting help, then it may be a good idea to confront them about their problem. There is a good chance they will become defensive about the issue but don’t allow this possibility to hold you back from letting them know you’re concerned for them.

They have overdosed.

When a person has overdosed, it is a sign that they need professional help to get better. Often, an addict will claim that the overdose was enough to scare them from ever using again. While this may feel true to them at the moment, the likelihood of them achieving any form of long-term sobriety without some form of help is very small. Although this is already an emotionally charged time, it is also an opportunity to point out the severity of the addiction and the need to seek out help.


They are in denial about their addiction.

When it seems like a person is in denial about their addiction, they are usually aware that they have a problem and are merely trying to cover it up. When a person continually denies that they have a substance abuse problem, even when it is undeniable that they do, this is a sign that an intervention is necessary to get the person’s willingness to seek help. There is a good chance they will continue denying that they have a problem, but at the very least, they will know that you are aware of the issue. Hopefully, with time, they will begin to realize how badly their addiction impacts their lives and the people around them.

They have negative health consequences.

Whenever a person is experiencing adverse health consequences from their drinking or drug use, it is a serious sign that they need some form of professional help to address their addiction. Liver damage, Hepatitis C, heart disease, the list of adverse health effects from drugs and alcohol can go on and on. When a person continues to drink or use despite these problems, it will only be a matter of time before things get even worse. Health problems are a definite sign that an intervention would be a good idea to help your loved one agree to treatment.

Their behavior is increasingly high risk.

Drugs and alcohol make people do crazy things. When a person’s behavior gets progressively more dangerous, and they continually take unhealthy risks, It is time to confront them about their behavior. The sooner you attempt to address the problem, the better. Often when a person is this far gone in their addiction, things will only continue to worsen unless they finally do something to turn things around.

You have reached the end of your rope.

Having a loved one that has an addiction is a stressful situation. There is only so much that a person can put up with before they have had enough. You don’t need to cut them out of your life completely, but if you are at the point where you feel like you can’t take the stress anymore, then it’s a sign that an intervention would be worth researching. Sometimes, the most loving thing that a person can do for their family member who has an addiction is to refuse to enable them to continue to destroy their lives any further. Once a person is willing to accept help, then, by all means, be as supportive as you can. There is a big difference between helping someone getting better and enabling them to stay the same. There is nothing wrong with drawing a line in the sand when enough has been enough.

Deciding to do an intervention is a serious decision that takes much consideration. It would be worth sitting down and thinking things through before beginning the process. It is often helpful to reach out to an addiction professional to assess the severity of the situation. Many rehab programs will give tips and guidance on how to do an intervention or help you find a skilled professional that can help you do one with you. Either way, it is essential to remember that this is not something you have to do without help.

Interventions are not very fun, and they are usually very uncomfortable. Nobody likes to hear criticism of their behavior. There is a good chance that your loved one will be upset with you, and they may lash out in an attempt to change the subject. Do not allow this possibility to prevent you from doing an intervention if you feel that one is truly necessary. There is a good chance that your loved one may feel some form of relief when you ask them to get help for their addiction and provide some solution to get treatment. It may not seem like it on the surface, but deep down, most people do not want to live the life of an addict, and the thought of being able to get better can come as a relief.

The best thing to remember is that it is better to have your loved one be mad at you for confronting them about their addiction than never to say anything and sit by as they destroy themselves. Ultimately the decision about getting help will be up to the person who needs it, but at least when you do an intervention; you will know that you did everything you could to try and help. The rest is up to them.


Reviewed by Matt Hawk, BS, CADC-II, ICADC



After overcoming her own addiction in 2012 Julie went on to become certified as an addiction counselor in order to help others achieve a life of recovery. She worked in the addiction field for 8 years and now uses both her personal and professional experiences with addiction as an influence for her writing.