Watching someone you love descend into addiction is a brutal thing to witness. You feel absolutely helpless and it seems like whatever you do or say is wrong. Somehow it all seems to backfire and further entrench self-destruction.

The distance between you and them – and them and everyone else who loves them – grows greater and more pronounced by the day. The strain becomes palpable.

Being a bystander isn’t an option though, that’s essentially like giving up and love doesn’t allow for that.

So, is there something you can do?


Seeking professional assistance in the form of a substance abuse intervention can finally open their eyes to their addiction and get them into recovery.

Signs and Symptoms of a Drug Addiction

You can’t help fix what you can’t name so before an intervention takes place, it’s important to understand what a substance use disorder (SUD) actually looks like. While an addiction to drugs and alcohol looks different for each person, there are some common signs and symptoms to look for. 

Behavioral Signs of Substance Abuse

  • Being secretive about where they’re going, what they’re doing and with who
  • Performance at school or work is becoming worse and worse
  • Disregarding personal responsibilities to family, friends, career, education, etc.
  • Unable to cut back on drugs despite trying to
  • Intense cravings
  • Loss of interest in activities they once enjoyed
  • Spending a disproportionate amount of time using, getting or recovering from the drugs
  • Financial instability and stress related to money
  • Borrowing, stealing or other legal trouble
  • Building a tolerance that requires more of the substance to get the same effect
  • Continuing to use despite clear consequences and damage to relationships
  • Engaging in risky activities like driving under the influence
  • Shifting to a new and more questionable social group
  • Unexplained outings

Physical Symptoms of Substance Abuse

  • Weight loss or weight gain
  • Bloodshot eyes or dilated pupils
  • Dramatically changed sleep patterns and/or insomnia
  • Impaired speech and coordination
  • Lack of care about general hygiene and grooming
  • Coughs and sniffles that don’t go away
  • Lethargic and tired or, conversely, full of extreme energy

Psychological Symptoms of Substance Abuse

  • Intense mood swings
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Changes in attitude and even personality
  • Paranoia
  • Irritability 
  • Lack of motivation

As addiction is allowed to continue unchecked and unabated these signs and symptoms will only intensify over time. They’ll become more and more pronounced and debilitating to both your loved one and you – their family and friends.

That’s why taking action now matters.

Substance Abuse Intervention Explained

An intervention is very much what it sounds like; you’re intervening in their self-destructive behavior and trying to get them help.

The steps of how it works may seem simple but an intervention must be done in consultation with addiction specialists and directed by a professional interventionist because they are intense.

After finding an intervention specialist the next order of business is assessing how severe your loved one’s addiction is and treatment programs that would fit them best.

From there you’ll decide who participates, decide on consequences for if they decline treatment and prepare what you all will say on the day.

It’s critical to make sure the intervention stays a secret. The surprise aspect of it is genuinely necessary because if they catch wind that something is happening, they may flee or put their guard up.

The idea is to hold a mirror to their behavior and explain how it affects you and them, if they know it’s coming, they will likely get defensive.

If they accept treatment, the journey of recovery starts right away. If they don’t; you, your family and friends must follow through on the agreed-upon consequences.

As stated in a Surgeon General’s report, “evidence-based behavioral interventions may seek to increase patients’ motivation to change, increase their self-efficacy (their belief in their ability to carry out actions that can achieve their goals), or help them identify and change disrupted behavior patterns and abnormal thinking”.If you’re worried about a loved one in your life, reach out to us at Safe Harbor to learn more about intervention.

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