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How To Stage an Opioid Abuse Intervention

By WebMD Connect to Care Staff
A successful opioid abuse intervention takes plenty of teamwork, expert guidance, and good communication.

A lot of planning goes into staging a successful intervention for someone struggling with opioid abuse. Here is how to approach the process with the right methods and motives.

What to Do

Assess. First, you need to assess your loved one’s circumstances. For instance, there are various forms of opioids, so you’ll need to tailor your approach to the type of opiate they’re abusing. 

“It really depends on the situation. If you have a senior who is starting to show signs of being addicted to pain medication, then working with their doctor is the way to go,” Danesh Alam, MD, tells WebMD Connect to Care. He’s a psychiatrist and medical director of behavioral health at Northwestern Medicine Central DuPage Hospital. “If you have someone who is using illegal opioids, such as heroin off the street, they happen to be at a very high risk for overdose, and that situation might be a little more urgent.”

Plan. Making a structured plan before you approach your loved one is key, Mayo Clinic says. Some first steps you should take include:

  • Decide who will help you plan and attend the intervention. (It should be people your loved one likes and respects.)
  • Choose a specific time, date, and setting for it. 
  • Research the appropriate professional resources that can help advise or lead your intervention team. 

Familiarize yourself with local support,” Alam says. “There are various task forces in a number of counties, support lines available, and even walk-in clinics where you could get help.” 

Create a team. Forming an intervention team can help build structure, consistency, and accountability for everyone involved. And having a primary licensed professional or rehabilitation center to turn to is often the key. 

“To increase the likelihood of success, it is recommended to find an experienced, trusted interventionist to lead the process,” says Matt Glowiak, PhD, a licensed clinical professional counselor. “This individual is the one who will moderate the intervention while helping de-escalate any conflicts.” 

Decide what you want your loved one to get out of the intervention. After you come up with a structured plan, you’ll need to be patient and compassionate when you communicate with your loved one. 

“The most important thing you can do to work toward a lasting change is position yourself as someone who is clearly on their side,” says Aaron Weiner, PhD, a licensed clinical psychologist and owner of Bridge Forward Group. “Instead of being harsh or confrontative about opioids at the outset, start by finding some common ground. Once you’ve established that you understand how they feel, you can then work with them to help find solutions.” 

Discuss treatment options. Talking to them about treatment options that include any professional, rehabilitation, and medical methods can be helpful. It would be best if you also positively approach them. 

“Making the person with substance use disorder feel guilty or bad about themselves has the potential to send them into a self-destructive spiral that might end up worsening their addiction,” says Alexandra Helfer, a licensed professional counselor and chief clinical officer at Mountainside treatment center.

Your suggestions should come from a well-meaning place, but be sure to also tell your loved one how their opioid abuse is negatively affecting them, Helfer says. “Use specific examples of how the person’s addiction has had a negative impact on that person’s life as well. These may include missing work, having difficulty interacting with friends or loved ones, and experiencing money troubles.”

Get Help Now

If you or a loved one is struggling with opioid addiction, WebMD Connect to Care Advisors are standing by to help.

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