Intervention: How to convince someone they need to seek help for addiction

People who are struggling with drug or alcohol addiction can be reluctant to address the topic. They are often unable to fully see the effects their behavior has on family members and others around them and may blame the problems they’re experiencing on other circumstances or other people.

This has been called denial. Whatever we call it, it’s a major block to getting the addict into effective rehabilitation treatment and becoming drug-free. Denial can keep the person from accurately seeing his or her problem in a realistic light.

Getting past the barriers that cause the unwillingness to accept treatment begins with showing the addict himself. Not always an easy task.

Here is how you might go about it:

1. First, understand addiction yourself

  • Do your research on addiction, understand what is being addressed

2. Establish a safe space.

  • This could be any place that is comfortable and there won’t be any interruptions

3. Make it clear that you care deeply for the addict and that their future well-being is your primary interest. (If this is not the case, find another interventionist.)

4. Establish the consequences of failure

5. End all enabling and ‘rescue missions’

6. Have the courage to face emotional outbursts without jumping into a screaming match with the addict. Be able to listen without reacting. (Sometimes the addict will use the screaming to get people off their backs and escape confronting their problem.)

7. Be alert to signs that the drug abuser is reaching out for help. Questions like, “How would rehab work?” “Where would I need to go?” signal a plea for help.

8. Keep in mind that the addict has an addiction. This doesn’t mean they’re a bad person. They are, however, under the control of their addiction and are unable to help themselves. Your intervention has only one goal, to get the addict to go, willingly, into a proper treatment facility.

9. Get the addicted person to look directly at the effects his or her addiction has caused. This is vital. Without angst or anger, insist they take a hard look at where they are now. Then look at where they were before the addiction began. Cover that point well. Where were you before drugs and where have you ended up?

10. Ask them where would you be now if you hadn’t taken up drugs? Buy no pat answers on this. We want them to see how the drug use has literally stolen their future.

11. Now a big one, “Where will you be in another year if you don’t fix this now?” Get in detail where this is headed. And don’t just buy a simple, “I’ll be dead.” What does dead mean? “How will that affect your family, your parents or your children? You need to rub their nose in it hard enough so they’re totally unwilling to experience THOSE consequences.

Don’t be afraid of some tears. You should be seeing some, and some may be your own.

And tears aren’t the final goal here. They don’t really mean anything. Weeping isn’t an unusual thing for a drug addict and tears don’t mean that the addict has changed their mind. What you’re going for is the addict realizing he or she doesn’t want to end up where they are now heading.

12. Show the addict the addiction information on the Narconon Nevada website; look at the facility and the procedures.

At this point he or she should be ready and willing to get the help needed. In the end, your intervention has only one goal, to get the addict to go, willingly, into a proper treatment facility.

At Narconon Nevada, we quite often help families with the difficult task of convincing a drug abuser that they are need to seek help. We also work hand in hand with several professional interventionists who are very successful in helping addicts arrive for treatment, so if you’re not successful or decide to just leave this step to the pros, call 1-800-876-6378. We’ll arrange everything.


Tony Bylsma

Tony Bylsma has been working for Narconon as a counselor, administrator and educator in various areas of the US for many years. In addition to helping people overcome their addictions and live drug-free lives, Tony has spoken to over six hundred thousand students, parents and professionals regarding drug abuse and effective abuse prevention. This year Tony is celebrating his 40th year of sobriety!