Drug and Alcohol Intervention for Young Adults
Entering adulthood can be an exciting time. It can also be a time of great stress and temptation to engage in drug and alcohol experimentation which can lead to dependence and addiction. It’s tough to see a young adult go through the misery associated with substance abuse problems, and maybe the time could be right to consider drug and alcohol intervention for young adults.
Young Adulthood – From 18 to …
Generally speaking, a person is considered a young adult when they attain the age of 18. They’re not 21, which is legal drinking age, and they’re not still children. They definitely have a mind of their own, no doubt honed during their often-tumultuous teenage years.
The age of young adulthood spans from 18 to 23 or 28, depending on which expert you consult or which intervention and rehab program for young adults you’re looking at.
There are some individuals who may have achieved the chronological age that society deems means they should be capable of making informed choices about their lives, yet they may be hampered by years of abusing substances and engaging in other risky behavior.
So, consider that young adults, in the context of drug and alcohol intervention for young adults, ranges from the age of 18 to 28.
Intervention – Some Basics
What is an intervention? Who needs it? When should you consider it for a young adult in your family, or for your close friend or loved one? Here are some answers.
In essence, an intervention for drug or alcohol abuse is a strategy that’s designed to interrupt or halt the course of what otherwise would be the progressive – and often fatal – illness of chemical dependency, or addiction.
If you’re reading this with any thought of trying to get some immediate help for your loved one, it’s not being disloyal or cruel to strongly consider an intervention. Why? The fact is that young adults who are exhibiting symptoms of drug and alcohol abuse will be the first ones to deny that there’s any problem at all. They will voice vehement objections over getting help for a perceived problem, and may even go so far as to question your love for them.
Most likely, the young adult with the substance abuse problem is incapable of recognizing what is, in fact, a reality: they have a chemical dependence. Since he or she can’t see that there’s a problem, there’s no reason on earth to pursue getting help. And it’s highly unlikely that the individual will just stop using alcohol or drugs (or both) just because you bring it up and express your concern. Maybe the usage will cease temporarily, but it won’t last.
It can’t, because once a person is dependent on chemicals, their body and brain craves it beyond all reason. Your loved one who is age 18 to 28 uses chemicals as a way to cope with life’s problems and associated stress when, in fact, much of this may be caused by the use of substances themselves.
Considering that your loved one has a distorted view of reality, trying to reason with him or her most likely won’t work. But you can’t just stand back and allow such self-destructive behavior to continue, can you? To do so would be unconscionable. The only way to break through the distortion is to have reality presented in such a clear and informed way that it cannot be denied.
This is accomplished through drug and alcohol intervention. And the best intervention is conducted by a trained professional.
Intervention – Who Needs It?
Next, let’s look at who needs an intervention. What should you look for to give yourself peace of mind that an intervention is, indeed, what your young adult loved one really needs?
While there are any number of questionnaires about drug and alcohol use freely available on the Internet, at various treatment sites, on 12-step self-help groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous, here is a sampling of questions that you can review. For alcohol and drugs, read through the following and see how much of it applies to the young adult you suspect has a problem with substances:
- Is there any family history of alcohol or drug problems? This includes close relatives such as parents, siblings or grandparents.
- Does the individual use alcohol or drugs on a consistent basis? Is this person often the last one to leave the bar, closing the joint?
- Does the individual have a reputation as being the “life of the party,” a “real party animal,” or someone who really enjoys drinking and drug use and looks forward to occasions to indulge?
- Have you, or someone else close to the young adult, ever complained about or worried aloud over the person’s drinking or drug use?
- Does the prospect of not having access to or being able to use drugs or alcohol cause the individual to be angry or anxious? Think about an occasion where such substances would not be available, such as a church function, or other gathering where no alcohol is served.
- Does this individual gulp down drinks so as to get high quicker?
- Have you noticed a change in the individual’s pattern of behavior with respect to alcohol and/or drugs? Does he or she drink or do drugs alone, switch off substances, use more or use more often now than in the past?
- Does the young adult have episodes where he or she can’t remember what happened while drinking or doing drugs?
- Has the individual been arrested for DUI or DWI?
- Does the person continue to drink, long after others have “called it a night” or stopped drinking in the interest of safety, knowing their limits? Does he or she keep on using drugs or alcohol, even though it’s clear that the limit has been reached?
- Do you hear apologies over what happened while the individual was drunk or high on drugs, or regrets and assurances that he or she will clean up their act?
- Has the individual tried to stop drinking or doing drugs, but the hiatus only lasted a short time before it began all over again?
- Does he or she appear guilty over use of drugs or alcohol, become angry or defensive if you mention your concern?
- Have you noticed the tolerance of the young adult has increased? In other words, does it seem as though the individual is able to drink or use drugs more than he or she did some time ago, say five years?
- How often does this individual suffer blackouts – periods where he or she can’t remember anything at all that happened during the time of drinking or drug use?
- Have there been difficulties at work or at school, such as frequent absences, poor work performance, missing deadlines, complaints from others about behavior, attitude and appearance?
- Does he or she frequently drink or use more than intended?
- Have you noticed the young adult has the shakes, is nauseated, complains of a terrible hangover, or appears depressed, anxious, moody or paranoid when sober?
- What about illnesses that may be related to alcohol or drug use, such as persistent vomiting or diarrhea, broken blood vessels in the nose or cheekbone area, no appetite, glassy eyes, high blood pressure, liver disease, pneumonia, hepatitis, seizures, pancreatitis, gastritis, cirrhosis, delirium tremens (DTs), or heart palpitations?
- Has the young adult suffered serious loss as a result of alcohol or drug use, such as getting fired from a job, losing a driver’s license, alienation or separation from a loved one, loss of financial security?
- Has the individual been hospitalized or gone to the emergency room for injuries, trauma, or accidents sustained as a result of drinking or using drugs?
- Has the young adult expressed the desire to commit suicide? Has he or she ever had hallucinations after drinking or doing drugs, exhibited paranoia, become extremely fearful or anxious over seemingly nothing?
- Is the personal appearance of the individual noticeably changed? Does he or she neglect to bathe, wear wrinkled or dirty clothes, no longer exercise, or refuse to see a doctor even when there’s an obvious medical condition that needs attention?
The answers to these questions may point to early, middle or late-stage addiction of the young adult. In any case, answering yes to five or more of them is a reasonably accurate indication that an intervention may be appropriate for your young adult loved one.
How to Arrange for an Intervention
Once you determine that an intervention is in the best interest of the young adult, the next step is to make arrangements for it.
Many people are uncertain how to go about finding an interventionist. This certainly isn’t anything to be ashamed of. We only tend to find out about such things when we really need them.
One way is to start with the family doctor and ask for a recommendation. Maybe you know the parents of another young adult who went through an intervention prior to going into treatment. If that worked out well, you might explore working with that interventionist or at least giving the individual a call to ask the kinds of questions you naturally have.
Treatment centers are another logical first step, since they may be able to provide counselors to help with an intervention for a young adult. There are also third-party professional interventionists for hire. These are people who have been thoroughly trained in how to do an intervention.
Always be sure to check out the professional interventionist or intervention service. You want an interventionist with exceptional credentials, sterling references and a great deal of experience, specifically with doing interventions for young adults. Check out the Association of Intervention Specialists to find a professional interventionist, all of whom are board registered interventionists and adhere to the AIS Code of Ethics.
Why not just perform the intervention yourself? For one thing, unless you’re a professional drug and alcohol interventionist, you aren’t properly equipped to handle the emotional aspects of the intervention. You may be swayed by tears and angry outbursts, feel a sense of shame or guilt about confronting your young adult son or daughter. Worst of all, you may back down and allow your son or daughter to continue behaving as before.
With a professional interventionist present, however, you can be assured that the meeting will take place according to evidence-based procedures. There will be a pre-meeting for family members and possibly close friends where everyone meets with the interventionist to go over what will take place during the actual intervention.
During the intervention itself, the interventionist’s sole purpose is to get the young adult to acknowledge that his or her abuse is a problem and to accept and be willing to go into treatment. During the meeting, family members and close friends read aloud statements that they have prepared ahead of time, telling the young adult how his or her drug or alcohol abuse has impacted them, and that they are here out of love for the individual and only want him or her to get the treatment they need.
It’s also critically important that the young adult realize that there will be no more enabling of the drug or alcohol abuse by family members. Excuses will no longer be tolerated and there will be no further support unless and until the individual accepts treatment.
Once the individual agrees to go into treatment, the intervention is over. Arrangements for admission to a drug or alcohol rehab facility should already have been made and the interventionist often accompanies the individual directly to the facility. There’s no downtime, no delay to give the person an opportunity to back out. The time to act has come.
Remember that if an individual is 18 or older, treatment cannot be forced upon him or her, unless it is the result of a court order, usually as part of a sentence. Even so, if your young adult agrees to go into treatment during the intervention, you’ll want to have the treatment facility arrangements already made. If you dally, needing to find the facility and make the necessary arrangements, you will lose the momentum of the moment. That’s definitely not the way you want to go if you’re serious about getting help for the young adult.
What Are the Prospects for Recovery?
Since recovery is the ultimate goal, the reason you’re thinking about drug or alcohol intervention for the young adult, it’s important to keep the long view. Look upon the professional intervention as an important and integral first part of the healing process from drug or alcohol addiction.
Of course, one time in rehab for drug or alcohol abuse may not be sufficient to overcome chronic addiction. Your young adult son or daughter may relapse, requiring further counseling or treatment one or more times in a rehab facility or private counseling. This does not mean the original rehab was a failure. It only means that there may be more time required for your son or daughter (or other close family relative or friend) to understand the disease of addiction, learn more about how to recognize triggers and learn and practice coping strategies for dealing effectively with cravings and urges.
Participation in 12-Step groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous or other self-help groups is also strongly encouraged following completion of drug and alcohol rehab.
With continued support and encouragement from family and peer support groups, your young adult will have a much better chance of maintaining sobriety and living a more fulfilling life. Don’t shortchange your son or daughter who may be in trouble with drugs and/or alcohol, thinking that they’ll be able to overcome this formidable hurdle alone. The time to act is now if you believe there is, indeed, a problem. It is undoubtedly the most loving thing you can do to get your young adult son or daughter off drugs and alcohol and on the way to a happy and drug-free life.
Considering everything, ask yourself again: Is now the right time to get your loved one, family member or close friend aged 18 to 28 drug and alcohol intervention for young adults? If so, the sooner you get involved, the sooner the young adult will be able to begin the healing process.