Drug Intervention Success Rate: Do They Work? | Brandon Novak

Drug Intervention Success Rate: Do They Work?


It’s common for addicts to be the last ones to realize they have a drug or alcohol problem. In fact, one study showed that 95% of addicts didn’t realize they had a problem.1 And that’s where interventions come in. They’ve become so popular that an entire show – Intervention – was created to chronicle the stories of people who underwent one and received addiction treatment, but do interventions really work? While they do and have helped many people realize the severity of their conditions and get help, today we wanted to take a closer look at the drug intervention success rate to determine whether they’re actually helpful in the long run.

What Are Drug Interventions?

An intervention is a meeting in which an addict is encouraged to admit their problem and seek appropriate treatment. During interventions, a group of close friends and family members come together, usually to surprise the addict.

During the intervention, each member of the group outlines how they’ve been impacted by the addict’s addiction, encouraging them to seek drug treatment and then listing the possible consequences for not seeking treatment. For instance, a wife may outline the ways her husband’s alcohol abuse has affected her and/or their children and may say she’ll separate herself and the kids from him if he doesn’t get help.

Interventions are often emotionally heavy and charged confrontations in which those closest to the addict outline all of the long-term consequences of their drug or alcohol use. Rather than simply saying that substance abuse is harmful, the addict’s loved ones may outline all of the ways their habit has and can affect their life and the lives of the people around them.

Addicts who decline substance abuse treatment can expect to experience the consequences their loved ones have shared. This approach, while seemingly severe, is meant to make seeking treatment the most obvious, easiest, and healthiest choice.

Types of Interventions

The drug intervention success rate depends on the type of intervention help: direct, indirect, or forcible. A direct intervention is the most common, during which loved ones confront the addict and lay out a plan of treatment.

In a direct intervention, the location and the course of treatment are predetermined by the group, as well as the consequences should the person decline to receive treatment. The intervention success rate for direct interventions is highest for addicts who appear unlikely to take the first step towards getting help on their own.

An indirect intervention focuses on the addict’s family and environment. In cases where the addict refuses to accept treatment, an indirect intervention offers guidance to the addict's loved ones to make their environment more conducive to healing.

Forcible interventions occur when the addict’s civil liberties are suspended. Usually, this comes in the form of a court order or mandate. Forcible interventions are normally the last resort because it’s preferred that the person give consent to any sort of medical treatment or procedure. This type of intervention is only utilized for cases in which the addicts are a danger to themselves or those around them or when substance abuse is worsening a preexisting health condition.

Do Interventions Work for Addiction?

Unfortunately, there’s no clear-cut answer. This is because defining success is difficult and subjective.

Is the goal for the addict to agree to treatment? Is the objective for them to complete treatment? Is long-term sobriety the aim, and, if so, how long do they have to remain sober for it to be considered a “success”?

The arbitrary nature by which a family or addict defines success versus another makes determining whether drug addiction interventions work and the intervention success rate a challenge. Even so, there is strong evidence to suggest that family involvement in addiction treatment contributes to the acceptance of treatment and sobriety.

This particular study found that participants who had family members involved in the intervention and stayed in the facility with them showed improvement in all areas of examination, including the reduction of alcohol consumption, drinking days, number of days with dysfunction among family, work performance, and financial responsibility.2 So not only did participants show improvement in their own behavior regarding drug or alcohol use, but family dynamics also improved.

Additionally, as a certified intervention specialist himself, Brandon Novak also understands the importance of working with a professional to hold an intervention for a loved one. These meetings are often emotionally charged, but a professional can keep the atmosphere calm and focused on the main purpose.

So, yes, interventions work for addicts in the sense that they’ll help loved ones rally together to work with the individual and offer them the support they need to not only undergo treatment but to remain sober in the long run. The support of loved ones is crucial in addiction recovery because the individual’s environment must be adjusted to support a sober lifestyle.

How Successful Are Interventions?

It is widely believed by professionals in the medical and addiction treatment community that interventions make an addict more likely to seek treatment and the chances of success (in this case, long-term sobriety) improve when the individual works with a professional interventionist. Research also shows that drug interventions involving trained professionals have a 90 percent success rate in which the addict agrees to seek treatment.2

However, the success rate for drug interventions cannot be strictly defined because there are too many contributing factors to take into account. No two addicts are alike, and factors like the type of substance used, the duration of their addiction, and their home life can affect whether an intervention works for them.

It’s also difficult to determine the role that relapses play in the success of an intervention and even addiction treatment. If someone relapses and then remains sober, have they succeeded or failed?

The television show Intervention embraced the direct intervention approach and boasted a 71 percent success rate (percentage of clients who remained sober after treatment) as of 2010. But eventually, the number went down to 64.2 percent in 2013 and again to 55.9 percent in 2015 due to relapse.4

However, not only is a 55.9 percent intervention success rate still highly impressive, but it also begs the question of whether relapse is a determining factor in deciding whether interventions work.

The Takeaway

In the medical and addiction treatment field, professionals recommend that loved ones of addicts stage an intervention to improve the chances of treatment and long-term sobriety. Although everyone is different, intervention often helps the addict realize the severity of their problem and how it’s affected the people they care about.

While this bare-all approach can seem stressful on the outside, it’s often necessary to sort of snap someone out of this drug-using groove and help them realize their need for treatment. If your loved one is currently struggling with a drug or alcohol problem, Brandon Novak can help.

This heroin user turned recovery advocate and certified interventionist has helped numerous families get their loved ones the treatment they need and deserve. He works one-on-one with all of his clients to make sure that they have all the guidance and education they need to help the addict and family heal.

Brandon’s personal experience with heroin abuse and addiction care at Banyan Treatment Centers prepared him to assist others who want to help their loved ones achieve sobriety. To learn how Brandon can help you set up an intervention for someone you care about, call him today at (610) 314-6747.

Related Reading:
How Brandon Novak Turned His Life Around
What to Do If an Intervention Fails

  1. ODPHP - Substance Abuse
  2. NCBI - Family member involvement in relapse prevention improves alcohol dependence outcomes: a prospective study at an addiction treatment facility in India
  3. NCADD - Intervention - guidelines
Reality Blurred - Intervention’s success rate is high, but has dropped
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