It’s never easy to send a family member to rehab. Staging an intervention and asking a loved one to enter treatment means that the individual either is unaware of a substance abuse problem or aware but has so far declined or neglected to seek treatment. The experience is typically stressful and emotional, but without treatment, an addicted person is very unlikely to be able to quit using the substance or function normally in society.
When Is Help Needed?
Most people who become addicted to a substance will either be unaware or in denial of their problem. Addiction tends to happen gradually, starting with substance abuse, or in the case of legal prescription drugs, long-term use. Even those following dosage instructions perfectly can become addicted to habit forming medications, though it’s less likely. Regular substance use will often lead to a tolerance, meaning that more and more of the substance will need to be taken in order to get the same effect.
As time goes on, it becomes more and more likely that dependence will develop. For most drugs and for alcohol, addiction comes in both physical and psychological forms. Physical addiction involves the changes that take place in the user’s body and mind in order to accommodate the frequent presence of a foreign substance. This aspect of addiction results in withdrawal symptoms when the intake of the drugs is significantly reduced or stops altogether. These symptoms are generally very unpleasant – so much so that the prospect of withdrawal can deter someone from trying to get clean – and they can even be dangerous.
Psychological addiction is the emotional aspect of dependence. It involves psychological cravings and a general feeling that the drug is needed for the individual to get through the day. The lack or anticipated lack of access to the substance will cause emotional distress, such as anxiety and depression.
- Changes in social circle
- Changes in hygiene and grooming habits
- Change in ability to meet work, school, and family responsibilities
- Avoidance of situations in which the substance is unlikely to be available
- Preoccupation with how, when, and where the substance can be obtained and taken
- Unpleasant symptoms upon stopping intake of the substance
- Anxiety and unease when the substance is not available
- Inability to stop using the substance even in the face of social, financial, and legal consequences
Any of these signs can point to a substance abuse problem, but they don’t necessarily mean an addiction has occurred. Deciding to intervene in a person’s drug or alcohol use can be something of a judgment call and may require a second opinion from other loved ones or health professionals.
Luckily, there is a common procedure for confronting an addicted loved one and getting that person into a rehabilitation center. Addiction treatment centers will prepare for new arrivals in order to take them in as soon as they accept treatment. However, this means that anyone looking to send a reluctant family member to rehab will have to do some planning first.
Finding the Right Program
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, there are over 14,500 specialized addiction treatment centers in the US alone.
- Medically supervised detox
- Inpatient and outpatient rehabilitation
- Behavioral therapy
- Individual and group counseling
- Medicated addiction treatment
- Case management
- Peer support groups
- Post-treatment coping education and training
Most experts agree than residential addiction treatment is the most effective. This involves staying in a specialized facility for several weeks and participating in daily treatment programs, such as 12-Step meetings or other support group meetings and individual counseling. Individuals in these programs are not allowed to leave until the treatment period is complete and not allowed any substances other than those prescribed by a doctor. This eliminates the problem of temptation and allows for around-the-clock care for withdrawal symptoms and any psychological issues that arise.
When planning an intervention for an addicted loved one, this is typically the type of program that should be selected. The intervention is an intense process in which addicted persons will often agree to accept treatment, but they can change their minds once the emotions of the intervention pass. The most effective method is to contact and make arrangements with an inpatient facility treatment first so they are ready to take in the addicted person immediately after the intervention. This way, minds can’t be changed.
Intervention and Treatment
Many people have seen or heard of some version of an intervention. It’s often portrayed in the media in generally the same way each time, but each intervention is a very personalized experience. It typically involves any number of the addicted individual’s loved ones gathering together in a safe space to speak to the person about their feelings around the substance abuse problem. It does not need to be an ambush, and it does not always end in treatment. The addicted person may be angry and defensive, be in denial about the problem, or simply refuse help. Loved ones may end up caving or displaying enabling behaviors.
Often, the best course of action is to employ the help of an addiction specialist or representative from the addiction treatment center. There are also professional interventionists dedicated to helping the process run as smoothly as possible who act as a mediator if conflict arises. With this method, interventions have a high success rate of getting the addicted individual into a rehab center within 24 hours.If treatment is accepted, the addicted person should be escorted immediately to the rehab facility. The individual will be screened for additional issues, such as physical illness and co-occurring mental illness, and checked into a room. Clients are allowed to bring clothes and some personal items, but no medications of any kind that are not approved by the facility’s medical staff are allowed. They’ll often be paired with a roommate and have regular interactions with other clients.
Family members are typically encouraged to visit to support the addicted person as well as to participate in educational and training sessions to learn more about addiction and how they can best support the client after the rehab program has been completed. It’s very important that individuals in recovery continue to receive support and care after rehab, as this process does not “cure” addiction. Temptations and cravings often pop up for years after, especially in times of stress. However, with the proper coping techniques as well as with love and support from those surrounding the individual, long-term recovery is absolutely possible.