Why early intervention is so crucial when treating substance addiction

Why early intervention is so crucial when treating substance addiction

The advantages of early intervention when it comes to treating addiction are invaluable.

Those with problematic drug abuse to substances like marijuana or cocaine who get treated at the beginning of their substance use disorders, are much more likely to avoid relapse and other health care issues in the future.

Substance abuse and early intervention

The days of waiting for an addict to hit ”rock bottom” and realizing the severity and helplessness of their addiction have become more of an antiquated albeit unhelpful treatment method over the years.

Positive intervention

Evidence suggests that early interventions have proven to be incredibly advantageous to individuals with a drug use problem.

When a person receives treatment early for their addiction, whether it be drug abuse or other substance use disorder, it prevents the likelihood of other mental health consequences.

Delayed intervention

Delayed intervention encourages the body to build a high tolerance to a substance (such as drugs and alcohol). 

It also allows addictions to create mental, emotional and physical footers, all of which makes treatment and recovery incredibly challenging and relapse much more likely.


The consequences of delayed intervention have proven to be costly for many countries across the globe.

The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse reported that for every two dollars of American government spending that goes toward addiction prevention, over ninety-six dollars gets spent on addressing the consequences of the countries that fail to prevent and treat drug and substance use disorders.

Drug abuse prevention

Drug abuse prevention

Detecting and addressing behavioral problems at the outset is just one way in which substance use disorders get prevented or reduced, particularly in adolescents.


Research suggests that many behavioral health issues can get spotted up to fours years before they become disorders. 

Programs such as the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) help to fund sobriety programs for young children and adolescents by teaching them essential principles around substance use that can get adapted for addicts of all ages.

Importance of early intervention

As mentioned earlier, the benefits of early intervention are bottomless. 

Whether someone has a marijuana or cocaine addiction, specific therapies and interventions can help control chronic addiction symptoms and improve an individual’s overall quality of life.


Some of the advantages of early intervention include:

  • Intervening early sets the stage for positive long-term effects, particularly when the long-term feels endless
  • Intervening at the outset catches the addict while they are still in frequent contact with healthier influences and environments
  • Early intervention alters the person’s life-course trajectory before it drifts too far out in the distance
  • Early intervention ensures that the long-term physical side effects of drug abuse and alcohol get minimized
  • Early intervening allows an addicts’ family members and friends to correct any unhealthy behaviors of their own that may be contributing to a loved ones’ problem with drug use
  • Intervening at the start also gives an addict the chance to shift their overall life focus toward healthy factors (before the addiction grabs hold) including, resilience, healthy environments, supportive relationships, positive mental health and adequate coping skills

Lastly, early intervention makes things generally that much easier for the addict. 

It is much less challenging to break a substance use habit if the substance abuse pattern hasn’t yet established an integral role in the person’s life.

What are formal vs informal interventions?

The term ”intervention” often strikes up terrible images in a person’s mind, among many things, an intervention ”mob culture” where parents, family members, and friends get viewed as interrogators and the addicted, the prey.

Medical settings

Social media often sensationalizes drug use intervention programs with frightening images of addiction recovery settings within primary mental health.

Painting an inaccurate depiction of early intervention programs can be conducive to substance misuse recovery.

Addicts require the full support and understanding from their school, work colleagues and communities, all of which are critical components to treating underlying trauma, behavior and problematic drug use.

Formal intervention

People who may be wondering about formal drug intervention must consider all the facts before making their first move.

For example, suppose parents or loved ones already have frank conversations with someone they love about their drug use issues. 

In that case, a gentle conversation might be enough to get them to consider treatment to address their addiction problem.

Formal – intervention principles

However, even the most informal approach to early intervention will benefit from using the formal -intervention principles, all of which get stated below:

  • Prepare the intervention script way ahead – a rule of thumb is to practice in advance as a group and agree among yourselves not to get distracted by arguments or anything else that may take you off your schedule.
  • Constantly express your respect, empathy and concern for the addict throughout the intervention, letting them know how much you value your relationship with them and instilling the belief that they can overcome their addiction.
  • Seek professional advice from an addiction specialist or an intervention-experienced counselor.
  • Ensure that the intervention team is no larger than six people. Consider how difficult and upsetting the situation already is for an addict without the added pressure of feeling bombarded and outnumbered. The aim is for the addict to remain as logical and non-defensive as possible.
  • Ensure that you understand the substance used and the specific concerns related to the drug. You must also know how long your loved one has been experiencing substance abuse and why. It also helps to know what other issues have developed as a result of substance abuse.
  • Always summarize the intervention by issuing the person with a sturdy ”next step”, such as an immediate call to action like professional treatment that they ideally commit to there and then. It’s also helpful to prepare for any harmful consequences that may arise from the intervention, mainly if they refuse treatment.

It’s normal to be concerned

Another area of importance in early intervention is understanding and addressing the common concerns associated with the intervention process.

An individual may worry about losing their relationship with the addict and fear that the addict is angry at them for approaching the issues surrounding their substance use disorder.

Developing a sense of trust

Developing a sense of trust

People must come to terms with the possibility that the addict may very well be angry at them.  Let’s face it; it’s never easy being told that ”you’re messing up your life” or having to admit to an addiction to substances like marijuana or cocaine.

Anger and resentment are likely to occur at the outset since few people will get geared toward instant gratitude.

Parents and family members must appreciate that although the initial intervention phase will be challenging, your loved one won’t end up hating you for it.

The key is to remain supportive, empathetic and understanding. Before long, your loved one will begin to demonstrate appreciation for your concern, and your relationship will end up being a lot stronger for it.

What to do if the intervention process fails

It’s common for people to refuse addiction treatment. 

Regardless of how well the intervention process got implemented, your loved one may not be ready to face their substance abuse problems.

People need to remind themselves:

  • Not to be discouraged or give up hope – Often, setbacks are merely a setup for a comeback.
  • To consider what might have gone wrong with the intervention, and if there was another attempt, what principles would get included the next time. Common mistakes made at interventions often include people going off subject, the addict being under the influence during the intervention and interveners getting defensive.
  • To stick to the consequences – when the addict refuses to get treatment, people MUST adhere to the effects they presented to the addict; if people back down, it puts them in a much weaker position and back into the enabler role. All this makes future intervention a lot harder.
  • Continue to be active within your support network – addicts’ loved ones’ need support too, and continuing to receive this level of support can be very empowering. It may even encourage an addict to follow this example in the future.

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Getting in touch

If you or someone you love is struggling with addiction, then perhaps it’s time to consider getting treated. 

Contact a member of our addiction specialist team today at Tikvah Lake Recovery and find out how we can help.

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