The goal of an intervention is to help addicted loved ones begin their journey to healing in the following ways:
- Recognize that they are struggling with a life-altering disorder
- Envision a life in recovery for themselves
- Accept immediate treatment
However, even when the family does everything right and stages the perfect intervention, it is still possible that the addicted person will refuse to get help.
Even when this happens, it’s important to remember that addiction recovery is a journey, and every journey begins differently. Your loved one may still agree to treatment, but it may take a bit of perseverance on your part. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) reports that when patients remain enrolled in drug rehab, they not only stop abusing drugs and alcohol but they also limit their criminal behaviors and improve life at home, at work and in their relationships.1
Therefore, there is great benefit to continuing to lovingly encourage addicted loved ones to enter treatment.
What Can Go Wrong?
There are a number of ways and reasons that an intervention might not go as hoped, even with the most careful planning. These include the following:
- Your loved one may be under the influence – When loved ones hold the intervention while the addicted person is under the influence, its efficacy is severely compromised. They are likely to not remember well what is said and may even become unnecessarily aggravated.
- Participants may lead with emotion – It is important for all involved in the intervention to remain nonjudgmental and positive in their body language, what they say and how they say it. This is extremely difficult when you have been hurt and watched your loved one live within an addiction. When an intervention becomes overly emotional and volatile, it can lead to failure.
- Your loved one may leave – Many people, when confronted through an intervention, simply get mad and leave.
- Your loved one may become violent or aggressive – When people feel threatened or judged, they often become defensive and make act on those emotions. If this happens, the intervention must be stopped to insure safety for everyone.
- Your loved one may refuse treatment – Even if all else goes well, everyone stays on track and focused, and your loved one listens and participates throughout the process, he or she may still ultimately disagree that rehabilitation is the next best step for them.
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When Your Loved One Refuses Treatment
If your loved one does not accept the offer of drug rehab, it’s not necessarily the end of your ability to help them enter treatment. There are a number of steps you can take that can potentially help your addicted family member choose to go to rehab. They include the following:
1. Do not barter, bargain or compromise.
Many people who are addicted believe they are still in control and may offer promises of quitting on their own. However, the reality is that they are not in control and need help to quit. Treatment is always more effective than trying to quit cold turkey, and depending on the drug of choice, your love one may need medical assistance for detox.
2. Follow through on your promises.
Because the goal of an intervention is to get your loved one to choose treatment, you must have consequences in place if they do not. Consequences should remove any enabling behaviors or structures for their addiction and provide safety and security for you and other loved ones from the effects of their addiction.
Once you state the consequences you have chosen, you must follow through. Your loved one may lash out in anger, but you must determine to not be manipulated by their addiction.
3. Stage another intervention.
After you have followed through on your promises, it may be clearer than ever to your loved one that choosing to continue in addiction is not the best, safest or most effective path for them. After a certain amount of time, a second intervention may be more successful, providing your family member with the opportunity to get the help they need when they need it most.
Troubleshooting for Future Success
Before you stage a second intervention, re-assessing your original intervention may be helpful in order to know what to do differently moving forward. For example, if a specific family member was unable to participate without anger, then the second time around, it may be a better choice for that person to stay home rather than take part in the intervention. If your loved one again arrives at the intervention while under the influence of drugs or alcohol, have a plan in place to be able to wait out the high until they are able to participate actively in the intervention.
A professional interventionist can be helpful in this process, going over the events of the first intervention with the family and assisting them in staging a second one.
How a Professional Interventionist Can Help
A professional interventionist can provide the necessary assistance to help you loved one enter treatment in the following ways:
- Help you troubleshoot and problem-solve the first intervention you staged
- Aid in the planning stages of a second intervention
- Answer questions from participants and help them to plan what they will say and when
- Provide resources and rehab options if the loved one chooses to go to treatment
- Address any potential obstacles as they arise before, during and after the intervention
- Help family members to follow through on their promises after the intervention if the addicted person again refuses treatment
- Escort the addicted person to drug rehab if they agree to get help
If the first intervention was not successful in guiding your loved one into an effective treatment program, you may wish to stage a second intervention. Unfortunately, there is little else that will likely work to convince them that rehab is the best choice. Without a steady focus on treatment, many family members inadvertently enable their loved one’s addiction, contributing to a continuation of all the problems that go with those behaviors.
Stay Focused on the Goal of Recovery
The attitude of the family is one of the most important driving influences on the success of an intervention. Remaining positive and hopeful can go a long way toward ensuring that the addicted person always has an open path to drug addiction treatment if they so choose.
The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) reports that an estimated 21.6 million people in the United States needed treatment for substance abuse in 2011 and yet only about 2.3 million actually received the care they needed. If your loved one falls into this number, you can help them to turn things around.2
Find out more about staging an intervention with the assistance of a professional interventionist right now. Call our 24-hour, toll-free helpline today at 844-768-1248 to get started.
1 “How effective is drug addiction treatment?” National Institute on Drug Abuse, January 2018.
2 “How do we get more substance-abusing people into treatment?” National Institute on Drug Abuse, January 2018.
Further Reading About What Do I Do If an Intervention Fails?
- 10 Tips on Holding an Intervention
- 6 Reasons to Hire an Interventionist
- Approaches to an Intervention
- Crisis Intervention
- Family Support
- Intervention for Narcissistic Personality Disorder
- Johnson Model of Intervention
- Sample Intervention Letter
- Top 4 Types of Interventions
- What Do I Do If an Intervention Fails?
David W. Newton is a board certified pharmacist and also has been a board member for boards of examiners for the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy since 1983. His areas of expertise are primarily pharmaceuticals as well as cannabinoids. You can read an article about his expertise in CBD on the National Library of Medicine.
Reviewed by: Kim Chin and Marian Newton