20 March 2017

Addiction Intervention – The Earlier, the Better
Addiction Intervention – The Earlier, the Better

The timing of an addiction intervention is an issue that frequently comes into question for the family and friends of addicts. There are many reasons loved ones procrastinate or wait to stage their interventions, but many times it comes down to simply not knowing when is the best or right time.

The Importance of Early Addiction Interventions

An addict’s family members and closest friends are the first to notice something is wrong. They watch their loved one slowly give in to the pull of their addiction and yet, many do not know how or when to intervene in such a way as to genuinely express their concerns to the affected person. They do not possess enough understanding of addiction to know that an early addiction intervention provides the best chance for recovery.

Should they wait until the addict hurts him/herself or someone else? Should they wait to see if he/she can get sober by them self, and if so, how long should they wait to see? These are just a few of the questions an addict’s support system internally debates before deciding to take a stand.

The Stages of Addiction

To best understand why early interventions are so essential to a user’s recovery, one must first understand the gradual progression of dependency. Four generally accepted stages lead to full-blown addiction. These are:

  1. Experimentation – Exactly what the title implies. This is when an individual experiences their first exposures to a substance or participates in a particular behaviour. It is often introduced to them by a friend or acquaintance.
  2. Social/Regular Use – This is the use of substances or participation in behaviours that occur in social settings or groups such as consuming alcohol, playing video games, or gambling
  3. Problem/Risky Use – This is the phase where the substance or behaviour of choice moves from recreational use or practice to abuse. Binge drinking to blackout is an example of this stage.
  4. Dependence – At this point in the addict’s evolution, he or she has formed an actual chemical dependency upon their substance of choice or psychological dependence on their compulsive behaviours such as gambling, sex, or video gaming.

The Results of Addiction Interventions That Came Too Late

Although the following three examples are all celebrities, they represent a segment of the population that has an enormous influence over society. In fact, they were all considered to be role models. As such, they were each in the position to set an example on how to conduct one’s life. Each of these individuals had access to multiple resources and the financial capability to deal with their substance abuse. However, their support network – those who loved and cared for them – waited too long to intervene and suggest professional help for their addictions.

Perhaps the greatest example of an addiction intervention gone wrong, Amy Winehouse ironically struck it big in 2006 with her song ‘Rehab’ before dying just five years later from alcohol poisoning. Friends and family had staged a late intervention and begged Amy to get help. She took the news of the intervention to her father to seek his counsel and ask if he thought she needed to go, his answer was ‘no’. She didn’t enter rehab. Instead, she died from her addiction.

WWE wrestling star Chyna succumbed to her Valium and Ambien addiction last year, overdosing just before she was to have appeared on the addiction documentary series Intervention. According to her former manager, a professional interventionist had been on board, and she had already been approved for a 90-day treatment facility stay. All that remained was to gather her friends and family and conduct the actual addiction intervention.

And yet another intervention was on the cusp of occurring last year as the concerned friends of musician icon Prince sought the urgent help of an addiction specialist. Their frantic calls for help came just days before the 57-year old’s death from opioid addiction.

Each of these instances could have had dramatically different endings if their interventions had only come sooner; the addiction and dependency only grow stronger over time when left untreated. There comes a time when every addict hits rock bottom, but that point is often too late. The best time for an addict’s loved ones to stage an intervention is during the earliest period of a user’s substance abuse or compulsive behaviour.

The Earlier, the Better

Nipping developing habits in the bud is always the right choice as doing so allows more opportunity for a full recovery. It can be more difficult in the early stages of habit development, however, to convince the user he or she is becoming an addict, as the affected individual is often convinced he or she still has control over their usage. It is important to remember that there are many cases where the first attempt at intervention is not successful. It may take more than multiple interventions before the addict accepts treatment. By establishing your concerns early on, though, you are creating a history of concern with the addict that may be useful in eventually convincing them to seek treatment.

With trained specialists on staff, UKAT is here to help those families and addicts that are in need of an addiction intervention. Please contact us today to learn how we can assist your situation.

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