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When an addict reaches a point where nothing matters more than the drugs — not family, not personal safety, not money, not the future — bad things happen. Maybe a young addict living at home brings home drug dealers, whose volatile presence leaves the rest of the family with little else to do but lock themselves in a room and wait for the dealers to leave. Maybe an older addict, living alone, passes out in the kitchen with a glass in her hand, sprawled in shards. And it gets worse, of course. Watching a friend or family member self-destruct in the throes of addiction is absolutely horrific, but there may be an option for some: stage an intervention. Essentially, a family turns to a therapist or addiction specialist for help. They gather, lure their addicted loved-one to the room, and offer him or her the chance to get help to get clean. Now. Or face consequences. It's heart-wrenching, but it can work. Have you intervened... or been the subject of an intervention? Share your stories here.



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Someone intervene on behalf of listeners to cure news media (including NPR) addiction to political horse race coverage.

Sent by Rick | 2:57 PM | 3-5-2008

While I understand that from a medical standpoint, addiction is a medical condition or illness. However, it bothers me to hear it lumped with other illnesses. It is a cliched statement but true - one can choose whether or not to take drugs or alcohol. One cannot choose to get cancer or not.

Sent by Mitzi Toohey | 3:11 PM | 3-5-2008

I'd like to know, if intervention is more or less effective than referrals from the court system?

Sent by George | 3:16 PM | 3-5-2008

My mother is currently fighting a gambling addiction. It is very difficult. She has already lost her home and is dying of terminal cancer. She now lives out of hotels and in her car. I live out of state with my own family and it is very hard to help her from such a long distance. My family at home seems to be in denial. What more would you advise in such a situation? Thanks.

Sent by Ananda | 3:18 PM | 3-5-2008

I was addicted to pain killers and my parents and siblings intervened. It was a long two year process and I had to put my son in kincare foster care (he lived with my sister and her family). That was three years ago and my son and I are doing great. If they hadn't intervened I know both me and my son would be dead. They didn't let me hit rock bottom, they caught me just in time.

Sent by Minda | 3:18 PM | 3-5-2008

I have been involved in two interventions with my mother an alcoholic. I think the interventions best purpose was to show my mother that the lies and manipulation that go along with the disease were crumbling around her. As a child involved in an intervention it was very painful but looking back it has allowed me to have some closure that attempts were made to help her. although I am now 34 and my mother still drinks, I look back at the interventions as a good thing.

I disagree with your guest about the need for the person to "want" help. I truly believe my mother will always drink because she does not want help. As far as hitting bottom.... we have SEVERAL times.

Sent by Amy From Buffalo | 3:18 PM | 3-5-2008

I feel my brother is at the point of needing an intervention. Unfortunately I live several hundred miles away, and all I can do is speak to him on the phone. After he recently passed out at the wheel and wrecked his car after a night of drinking, I pleaded with him to go to AA and also seek help from a mental health professional (I believe he is self-medicating due to issues with depression). My parents mean well, but I am afraid they are enabling him. They covered up the accident from the police so he wouldn't get in trouble, they claimed the car on their own insurance and they are letting him drive their cars until he gets a new one. They say they have talked to him, but I think actions speak louder than words. The fact that they continue to let him live under their roof with little to no responibility for any of his actions says to me that they have not really admitted to themsleves the extent of his problems. What can I do?

Sent by dawn | 3:20 PM | 3-5-2008

I feel business is an operative word here. As a family, we read the books, hired an expert, went through the process. Our addicted family member went through a residential 30 day treatment program. I wish I could say it made a difference but it cost a great deal of money, the person is sicker than ever, and now quite estranged from the family. I understand the sincerity involved but wonder about the sell. I personally know of three other interventions; not one was successful. We spoke to people who were involved in these unsuccessful ones, heard the stories, but desperation leads one to hope that things will be different.

Sent by Donna | 3:20 PM | 3-5-2008

Even with intervention, attitude is everything. At Strategies for Change (providing integrated substance abuse treatment for 30 years -in Sacramento) we find that the key to success is based on figuring out strengths and weakness and helping people with addiction and mental health issues make progress in the real world: it's a way for families with complex needs get better. Moreover treatment cannot exist in isolation, must exist in a context of the individual and the family. Improving relationships and peer- to peer support works!

Sent by Anne Fenkner, Strategies for Change, Sacramento, CA | 3:20 PM | 3-5-2008

Certainly interventions can be helpful. As the speaker suggests, intervention can have a great impact on helping an addict recover.
However, I would make a clear distinction between long-term and short-term addiction. Caught early enough, it is clear that confrontation can shock the user into a change.
However, the intervention process can at times be a panacea, allowing enabling families to feel as if they've "really done something" while at the same time continuing to provide material support for their addicted family members.
My mother has been addicted to drugs, and she still secretly uses. She has been forced into rehab by such interventions many times and even gone to prison, but this has only made her more adept at manipulating loved ones, who continue to feel obliged to be 'active' in the user's life. I'm sure the speaker would, with is program, encourage families not to enable their loved ones, but the idea of 'intervention' as an automatic cure is innaccurate.

Sent by Megan | 3:21 PM | 3-5-2008

My daughter has been 3 different rehab facilities in the last eighteen months. She has been hospitilized two additional times for suicide attempts during the same timeframe. None of the inpatient rehab has been covered by our insurance (Humana), even though the insurance brochure implies that it would be covered. Considering the sizeable amount I pay for health insurance, this is a disgrace.

Sent by Ed Garrison, MD | 3:21 PM | 3-5-2008

Sad to say, the intervention done on my adult son did not work. He has been in rehab for alcoholism three times, all at our insistence. He is a hard-core alcoholic and really doesn't want to stop.

Sent by Jane | 3:23 PM | 3-5-2008

I was married to an alcoholic who from time to time, needed urgent care due to excessive alcohol consumption. Each time I took him there, the physician took blood samples and could see abnormal liver results. It seems to me these results clearly showed the extent of his alcoholism, but when the physical asked him "How many drinks do you have per day?" and he answered dishonestly "One or two," the physician pursued it no further. I think that if the physician had thought he needed to be put in a treatment center, he should have placed him there. Can physicians legally make this type of determination? At the time, I was too intimidated to speak up and too frightened of this alcoholic, who could be violent, to intervene. (He ultimately died of alcoholism.)

Sent by Withheld | 3:23 PM | 3-5-2008

Thank you TOTN. I have been clean for 3 years in a small town. I got clean without an intervention or from the courts. I have always thought interventions were not effective as from my expirience, I was not ready to quit until I was tired of fighting the addiction. Recovery teaches me to keep an open mind. My thoughts on intervention has shifted from the program.

Sent by Chad Lautner | 3:25 PM | 3-5-2008

I used a social networking site call The Second Road to help with an intervention. On this site, the person was able to see videos of people in recovery who described the cost of addiction and how it affected those around them. They also were able to connect with a supportive community. The Second Road helped this person get and stay clean.

Sent by Beth Elliott | 3:27 PM | 3-5-2008

I'm an attorney in Oregon, and have experienced my own intervention of sorts five 1/2 years ago, which I call divine in more ways than one. I have since helped arrange a client's spouse's entry into treatment. That was, unfortunately, not successful in terms of her ability to maintain sobrietyh. Legal and treatment professionals seem still in discussion and some debate about "mandating" treatment, and whether the teacher appears when the student is ready, or otherwise. Great topic!

Sent by Bruce | 3:28 PM | 3-5-2008

There are layers of addiction and each person has to make a choice if they will except help. If a person is not willing to work towards getting sober they will remain an addict no matter who confronts them or is concerned about them. Prisons and graveyards are full of these people. I say this working years in Juvenile Probation and Federal community corrections.

Sent by Rudy Martinez | 3:29 PM | 3-5-2008

my son is 18 yrs old and recently attempted suicide and we have attempted to get help and he was willing at first but then after a few weeks no longer wants any help. He now is smoking cigarettes and is smoking marijuna. I'm scared that he may go to more serious drugs. What can i do to help my son from going to hard core drugs?

Sent by Josie | 3:29 PM | 3-5-2008

My brother is listening. His 30 year old son is having problems with pain medications. At one time he took 20 pills per day. Just got out of detox and is now back with the girl who helped to supply him with drugs. When do you know if they are addicted? Do you give emotional support at all times? If you choose to use tough love, can you have any contact?? Thank you!

Sent by gail jones | 3:30 PM | 3-5-2008

Five years ago my 18 year old daughter had a meth addiction, I found out she was in trouble with the law and had a warrant, I turned her in and she went into a drug rehab program. Now she is now doing very well, with a great management job. My daughter says that intervention was the best thing ever done to her. The State of Arizona Probation services also have to be thanked

Sent by Roger | 3:33 PM | 3-5-2008

Hello everyone:

With respect to detox, I was wondering why AZ is not using acupuncture more as an adjunct therapy in clinics and hospitals. I am a clinical acupuncturist with ten years clinical experience in SE Asia and Japan. we often do detox and mental health intervention and they go well together.
Oriental Medical units are in both East and West coast hospitals. I am also in ASU's 1st Post-Master's Certification In Child/Adolescent Mental Health.I hope somebody listening who is in a position to start such a program does so (or contacts me in AZ)
Paul Sweeney DOM, Lic Ac.,
Acup.Physician 602-279-5904(clinic #)

Sent by Dr Paul Sweeney | 3:35 PM | 3-5-2008

I disagree with the concept of "sick" families.I think it is the full responsibility of the addict for their own actions! What do you know about Rational Recovery? this program seems like a good alternative to AA and intervention...

Sent by Dee | 3:35 PM | 3-5-2008

when does it become and addition versus a problem. If the user is trying to get their lives under control what role would intervention play/ He acknowledges he is an addict.

Sent by Barbara | 3:36 PM | 3-5-2008

i just heard someone say that AA doesn't make users accept responsibility for their actions. that is complete bull, he obviously hasn't gone through the program and wrote it off before he got into it. my mother is 20 years sober and used AA to get there. sure, they mention God but they tell you to go apologize to every person you wronged, that is part of the process.

i'm not sure if intervention works or not. my mother was dropped off at rehab by my father, not by her choice. they quit drinking together and she never looked back.

i was addicted to heroin and my whole family was in denial, still is about it. i don't do it anymore but no one ever stopped me, i just started getting so sick that i would've died if i kept going. i just kept doing more until i couldn't be woken up. it was a slow process getting out from under it, but ultimately i realized how my thoughts were no longer my own and that's when i truly stopped.

Sent by fiona | 3:40 PM | 3-5-2008

An earlier caller mentioned AA. There is an alternative program called DrinkWise that uses cognitive behavior therapy and positive modeling.

My complaint with AA is that if I am trying to learn ways to overcome addiction and have better behaviors, I want to be around others who already exhibit these positive behaviors or who have never had issues with addiction. I don't need to spend time around others in AA where we all have the same (or similar) underlying, unaddressed issues and no positive role models.

Sent by Sue McDowell | 3:43 PM | 3-5-2008

There are alternatives to 12 step programs based on giving oneself over to a "higher power". Lifering Secular Recovery ( has helped to keep me sober for over 15 years without ever working a single step. Sobriety gives me more power, not less!

Sent by Geoff in Berkeley | 3:43 PM | 3-5-2008

Can folks explain to me the thinking that "an addict needs to want recovery, before help can be given?" Chemicals attack the will power of the addict to make that decision.

Sent by Dwight Wascom | 3:47 PM | 3-5-2008

Drug addiction is not as easy as just "choosing" not to use. Suppose you do get cancer, and become addicted to pain medication, and continue to use them after remission. Is that a choice? You could have chosen to live with the pain, in order to not risk addiction. Also, you could have chosen to die. Some choice.

Many people over simplify and stigmatize drug and alcohol addiction. Normal social activity like drinking develops into addiction in some people who are susceptible to it-- how could they have known it would become a problem, until it did?

When softer drugs like marijuana are lumped in with hard drugs like heroin, it leads young users to believe that they are equally dangerous, when this is not the case. As much as we like to believe in the power of our individual will, we are all social animals, we imitate the behaviors we observe, and drugs effect people differently. "Just say no" is penultimate ignorance.

Sent by Matthew Ebert | 3:55 PM | 3-5-2008

I am in dual recovery myself (alcoholism and bipolar disorder). I was a counselor in a dual diagnosis unit in a state hospital for several years. Our unit was a last resort for people who couldn't stay clean and sober because of their psychiatric problems or wouldn't cooperate with psychiatric treatment because of their addictions. We were pioneering in comprehensive treatment of both disorders at the same time. This has become more common now. A mother called in today stating that treatment for addiction doesn't work unless the underlying problems are treated. This can and does happen in AA through working the steps, but if the problems involve clinical depression, bipolar disorder or schizophrenia, then psychiatric treatment is also needed. Many people in AA do not understand the difference from the recovery they have achieved through the 12-Step process, and the need for medication for biologically based psychiatric disorders. They do not understand the difference between street drugs and medications taken under a doctor's care. AA has been very important in my own recovery, but I don't talk about my need for medications for bipolar disordr. Many people have been made miserable by people in AA telling them to stop taking their medications. The AA's evidently don't know that they are practicing medicine without a license.

It is very important for anybody treating addictions to learn to recognize when a psychiatric consultation is needed. All too often substance abuse is an attempt to medicate a psychiatric disorder.

Sent by Jane (I must remain anonymous since I am in AA) | 4:43 PM | 3-5-2008

I beg to differ with the caller who said that AA is the "worse" treatment for an alcoholic. Although everyone is entitled to their opinion, the facts are the facts, period. AA has well over 2.5 million SOBER members worldwide and continues to grow. If it is the "worse" program, why is the most successful in all of modern history? It is a well known fact that MOST real alcoholics will never recover and will die an unhappy, miserable alcoholic death ( suicide, accidents, chronic health problems etc.) However, it is my personal experience that, against all odds, AA can help a person to live a happy, hopeful and useful life without alcohol. I am an over-achieving, over -educated doctor who was drinking a fifth of Vodka daily at the end of my drinking days. I was very fortunate to find an AA meeting several year ago. Of course, I tried everything else, first, like psychiatry, counselling, church, meditation, self help books etc etc etc! I have nothing against these methods, they just did not work for me. Needeless to say, I was a bit disappointed by the caller who was so disturbingly "anti-AA". He said he was in and out of AA for 30 years; He should try staying the next time! I have been sober over 10 years and AA saved my life and helped my family and my 3 beautiful children great deal, also. In contrast to the callers comments, I was asked in AA to take FULL responsibility of my past behavior and to be accountable to others and myself for my current actions. I hope that any desperate hopeless alcoholic listeners did not believe this caller's opinion. The last thing we real alcoholics need is another excuse to keep drinking. Finally, unlike some of your callers and guests, I am open to any and all methods that will help even just one suffering alcoholic or addict. Therefore, I will not say that AA is the only way to recover, but I will say statistically, so far, it is the best way! They say ignorance is bliss, but for the true alcoholic, ignorance and denial is deadly.

Sent by Louis in St. Louis, MO | 5:30 PM | 3-5-2008

I have a 4 year old daughter and her mother is a Vicodin addict and alcoholic. I also believe she has some underlying mental illness. When her problems became evident I had encouraged her to get help and go to AA and NA. Having been addicted to multiple drugs (meth, heroin, cigarettes, alcohol) some years back myself, and having quit all of them cold turkey with no assistance other than will power, exercise, and the reality of becoming a parent, I really had a hard time being sypathetic especially thinking that her addictions had not been as severe as mine. Slowly she stopped going to her meetings and began getting worse and worse to the point of becoming negligent of her daughter's safety and almost killing them both after falling asleep with the oven on and letting the house fill up completely with smoke. She was forcing me to play Russian roulette with my daughter's life, which I couldn't do, and so I had to separate from her. Since then she's all custody and visitation rights to her daughter, blamed all of her troubles on me, lived with at least two men who who have physically abused her, and to my knowledge has done nothing to address her addictions. I've asked her family to try an invention, but the response I get from them is just that they hope she gets better someday.

Sent by Ted | 5:44 PM | 3-5-2008

If Jane (see post above) or anyone else seeking support for dual recovery were to attend Lifering ( rather than 12 step meetings, she wouldn't be judged for taking medically prescribed drugs and could work on her recovery with complete honesty while still maintaining anonymity.

Sent by Geoff in Berkeley | 7:48 PM | 3-5-2008

I will be monitoring this group so please feel free to ask me questions. I'd also like to mention my book which could be a tool for families...

It's Not Okay to be a Cannibal--How to Stop Addiction from Eating Your Family Alive.

Sent by Bob Poznanovich/ | 8:41 PM | 3-5-2008

If you want to understand addiction better and see several paths from it, visit

Sent by Jeff | 1:04 PM | 3-7-2008

Hi, Bob. I'm curious to hear your thoughts on my ramblings below. I am purposely glossing over the physical aspects of addiction because I feel that there are many increasingly effective treatments for that part of it. I am more concerned with what brings people back months or years after the physical addiction has been broken.

My sister committed suicide in September 2005 after 25 years of ups and downs. She used heroine and cocaine (and alcohol and probably marijuana) off and on from age 12 on up to the end. AA, NA, church, detox, etc. were tried and tried again. In the end, nothing worked for long.

At the end of the day, there was always blame. She would blame the drug, blame herself, blame god, blame her family, and so forth. And, of course, there was guilt.

I have had a long time to reflect on this. There is no one factor that can be blamed. In fact, I feel that it is counter productive to do so. Guilt will drive a person mad, and blame will create a scapegoat. The drug didn't do this, but was just one outlet.

What a person needs to do, I believe, is understand what it is that makes their heart beat faster. What goes through their mind to make them want an escape, any escape. This is easier said than done. But I feel that most treatment focuses on the external, rather than the internal.

Ok, I've rambled on for longer than I had intended. I hope that I've been at all coherent. But there has to be something better, whether or not it yet exists.


Sent by Max F. Exter | 8:03 PM | 3-8-2008

I think the biggest problem with addiction is that it is misunderstood by many people and dismissed by those with strong wills and little problems with addiction. Although it is fed by the individual, the behavior and predisposition are medical and/or psychological.

Addiction may have many causes, parenting may be the source or the problem, environment may be a strong contributor, but the addict doesn't choose to be addicted. You don't grow up hoping to wake up in the gutter looking up at the curb. You don't aspire to commit a crime to pay for your fix. Yes, it's the addict's personal responsibility, but it is indeed a trap.

This illness can't be treated like livestock..herd 'em up, brand 'em and then release 'em. Addiction is a very personal illness--one in which a shot can't cure. 30 days in hard labor won't work.

Keep in mind that recovery involves many relapses for some. I know friends that have had 2 or 3 bad relapses even after treatment. Surprisingly, very fragile egos are hard to treat because every minor stumble causes feelings of doubt.

I have 2 friends struggling with addiction. One lost 2 hair salons to hsi gambling, one lost his marriage.

What an intervention does is bring a the problem to a head. It offers a person the option to get treatment, but most importantly, informs them how their addiction affects people they know. Friends & family whom are afraid to confront this person, or whom lack the skills or abilities to deal with the problem benefit from an intervention.

The addage, "..addicts don't deny they're using, they deny it's hurting anyone else.."

Both of my friends have struggled with that aspect.

Sent by Brian Banish | 12:54 PM | 3-12-2008

My (now ex-) husband shot heroin as a young adult, but was able to quit and have a good life for many years, and lead a department at an engineering firm. He had a minor back injury from work, so was seeing a worker's comp person. We got married in our early 30s, and shortly afterward, the worker's comp person prescribed oxycontin. He started injecting it and over a few months became psychotic and delusional. I'm a scientist, and was amazed at how much he seemed like someone with an organic brain disorder, like bipolar disorder. I'd known him when he was a heroin addict, and through he had many of the "addictive" personality changes then, this was way off the charts. There was no way he was ever going to be able to think straight. He would inject drugs in his sleep; I'd wake up and find him doing this. He didn't recognize me after a short while, and started imagining I was doing bizarre things to him. We are in Florida, where there is little state infrastructure. Unless he is committed and forced to get clean, he will never be able to make this choice. I think it's important to see drugs differently; on heroin he would choose to quit and put his mind to it, and he did, eventually. Now, he can't seem to even distinguish what is real and what is in his head. There is literally no hope for him. We went to NA and AA a lot in the beginning, but over a year, we could find no one who had quit injecting oxycontin to be his sponsor. They all had died.

Sent by Monika M. Wahi, MPH | 10:23 PM | 3-25-2008

The need for good drug rehab centers is increasing due to the large number of people indulging in drug abuse activities. Despite having ban on illegal use of drugs the cases of drug addiction is still at peak. The drug rehab centers are many but successful drug rehab programs are few.

Sent by Drug Detox | 3:31 AM | 5-9-2008