Intervention for alcoholics

A little more than half of all adults in the United States report drinking alcohol, and 7 percent report having an alcohol use disorder, according to an annual survey conducted by the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. The number of people who have trouble with alcohol may be larger, as 25 percent report binge drinking, or consuming four to five drinks within two hours.

Among Americans who abuse alcohol, many are able to reduce their drinking without any formal treatment. But some drinkers can’t do it alone.

Families and friends may have to stage an intervention to convince a person with alcohol dependence that they have a problem. An intervention is a meeting in which you face your loved one and explain that you are concerned about their health and well-being. From this intervention, you can hopefully direct the addict toward a doctor, detox program, or support group that can help them face the realities of addiction and get on the path to recovery.

An intervention allows relatives and friends to present their loved one with the opportunity to accept their problem and make changes before the problem becomes significantly worse. An intervention can help do the following:

  • It can provide the occasion for friends and relatives to offer examples of how alcoholism has been destructive and had a detrimental impact on the addicted person and the people around them.
  • It can afford healthcare professionals and family members the opportunity to explain a course of treatment they think will work best.
  • It can present an addict with the consequences of their actions if they choose not to accept a treatment plan.

An intervention typically involves the following steps.


Interventions require planning, thought, and specific attention to the addict’s needs and circumstances. It’s wise to contact a doctor and a social worker or therapist for help in planning the intervention. You may invite them to participate in the intervention so that they can provide relevant medical and treatment information.

Preparing others for the intervention

An intervention can be a very dramatic, emotionally charged encounter. It has the potential to stir up a sense of betrayal or resentment on the part of the addict. Talk with a healthcare professional to learn how best to respond to these situations.

Gathering an intervention team

The following people are involved in an intervention:

  • The person with the addiction: When confronted, the addict may refuse to take part or may leave the gathering. More than one intervention may be necessary.
  • Friends and family: If the addict is a child, a parent typically leads the intervention team. If the addict is married or has a partner, the spouse typically leads.

Facing an alcohol addiction can be a very lonely, scary proposition. Seeing how many friends and relatives are willing to offer support may just be the boost of encouragement the addict needs to begin their turnaround.

Giving consequences

Often, the first time an addict is met with an intervention, they recoil at the statements and walk away. This behavior should be met with consequences that show how serious the intervention team is. Such consequences may include losing visitation rights with children, taking away their car, or asking them to move out until they’re ready to begin therapy.


Each member of the intervention team will speak during the intervention. This is meant to help the addict understand the concerns and feelings these team members have with regard to the addict’s health and their own well-being.

Present the treatment option

Once every member of the intervention team has had a chance to speak, the addict should be presented with detailed suggestions for a treatment plan. The addict can accept the offer then and there, or the team may be willing to give them a few days to weigh their options.

Total abstinence from alcohol is not always the goal of an intervention or treatment process. Some people will be able to learn selective drinking behaviors and remove themselves from an alcohol abuse cycle. However, giving up alcohol for good and accepting a life of sobriety is the only way some people are able to move past addiction. For each person, a team of doctors and therapists will decide the best course of treatment and the desired outcome.

In some cases, the person who is addicted isn’t ready or willing to accept responsibility for their problem. The intervention itself may set off additional behavior problems that can complicate the relationship between the addicted person and the intervention team members.

No matter the outcome of the intervention, it’s important to be patient and stick with your plans to render consequences. This may help the person with the addiction realize the impact their drinking has on friends and loved ones, and may encourage them to eventually seek treatment.