Workplace Intervention

Intervention methods for substance abuse
Last Edited: November 12, 2020

Patricia Howard, LMFT, CADC

Clinically Reviewed
Edward Jamison, MS, CAP, ICADC, LADC

All of the information on this page has been reviewed and certified by an addiction professional.

Help a co-worker tackle their addiction

When someone is addicted to a substance like drugs or alcohol their behavior reflects the depth of their addiction. Missing work, showing up under the influence, lethargic demeanor, and poor work performance are all key signs that the addiction has become the main objective for the individual. Stress, family problems, and even overwhelming responsibilities can cause someone to depend on substances like drugs and alcohol to cope.

Workplace interventions occur when a boss or coworker realizes these types of behavioral changes and feel the need to find help for their coworker. Intervention models like screening, brief, or even online strategies are utilized to educate the user of the options that they have and to find help for their employee.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, almost 75% of people who are using illicit drugs are employed. If you’re considering a workplace intervention, you’re not alone. Relationships with coworker develop over time and candid concern for each other occurs over time. Similar to our friendships outside of work, it’s easy to become concerned when one of our friends shows signs of self-destruction due to a drug and/or alcohol addiction.

Steps for a Workplace Intervention

Workplace interventions become appropriate in these cases as the addicted person can become unstable and even erratic. This kind of behavior is understandably not tolerated for the safety of other employees.

There is a workplace intervention model that the interventionist will likely follow to assure that the intervention will be as successful as possible. The first thing that needs to be done if you’re planning an intervention is to contact an interventionist.

A professional interventionist will be a part of the team to help make sure that the meeting doesn’t take a turn for the worse. The meeting will have an air of love, support and concern. Every person that will participate in the intervention will play an important role so it’s important to choose the participants wisely. Gathering a group of people that the person trusts and respects to convey the message of concern is normally the first step.

Communication with the intervention team is important in creating a strategy that will show the person struggling with addiction how much love and support they have through this difficult time. Conveying a positive message of we love you, we care, and we want to see you healthy again is key as the person struggling may become defensive and ashamed of their actions.

The intervention team will be asked to write a letter and rehearse what they are going to read to the person as the overall message of these letters need to share the message of:

  • Love and acceptance.
  • How the substance is affecting their health in a negative fashion.
  • The level of support they are willing to dedicate to the person’s recovery. (phone calls, attending meetings with the addict, shoulder to cry on.)
  • How the person’s future and potential will bet better without the substance.

Finally, hosting the intervention in a safe/neutral location with the interventionist guiding the meeting. The interventionist will defuse offensive behavior during the sharing of each person’s letter, however, try not to take anything too personally as the substance that they are abusing could create aggression, resentment, offensive behavior, or self-loathing which may lead to stress to use again.

Ideally, the person will agree to go to a program to clean up and get control of their life again. The intervention team has only one duty left and that’s personally escorting the addicted person to rehab, help them to fill out the enrollment forms and to assure them that those who love them will be there for them if they need to call, need a friendly face to visit, or any other form of support they agreed to.

What is an Intervention Specialist and How Can They Help?

Certification and training is required in becoming an intervention specialist as the way they mediate and handle an intervention is a matter of life and death. It is very common for a loved one to contact an intervention specialist to aid in the proceedings. Many people seek help with interventions as their own attempts have failed or there is concerns of aggression and need a mediator’s help to convey their message of love and concern.

Talking to a drug abuser about their addiction and convincing them to get treatment are rarely easy and often met with hostility. Users will often deny they have a problem, retort with aggression that it is none of their business and suggest that they do not have a problem with their addiction. Intervention specialists are trained to handle these types of situations. Certified Intervention Specialists are trained to:

  • Evaluate the addict’s history of addiction.
  • Implement strategies that are effective in all situations.
  • Persuade the addict to seek treatment and discuss their recovery options.
  • Build an intervention team of family and friends that express love and support.
  • Host an intervention that is organized and productive.
  • Deescalate aggressive responses that are defensive or even violent.
  • Escort the addict to a treatment facility following the intervention.

How Substance Abuse Effects the Workplace

In a global competitive job market, obtaining a job and keeping it is the American dream for many. More often than not, those who do have a full-time job can’t wait to get off of work to de-stress with a drink, or two, or five. When those individuals depend on that method to cope with the pressure from their job and their excessive drinking and drug use affects their work performance is when an intervention is needed.

Substance abuse has various ways of effecting the workplace negatively. Absence from work, aggressive behavior, accidents, sleeping on the job, and poor productivity are all good examples of why a company would invest in promoting preventative programs and educate employees about substance abuse. Many of these negative impacts cost the company thousands, if not millions of dollars if an employee’s substance abuse problem goes unnoticed.

Being under the influence can put coworkers in danger, depending on the type of job. If the substance being abused is a sedative, this affect the ability to operate heavy machinery or the ability to drive.

Alcohol abuse could affect the person’s mood or responses to the environment around them. Unable to articulate, motion impairment, or the ability to comprehend the information could affect their work performance. If a person is using a substance that enhances their performance, like Adderall, the seriousness of their addiction my not have a negative effect on their performance, but their overall well-being. Psychotic behavior, insomnia, and/or extreme weight loss are some of the signs of performance enhancing drug abuse.

Workplace Interventions and Preventative Programs

Unfortunately, every company is different and has different preventative programs in place. Contact the HR department of a company to discreetly inquire about the programs available at your workplace. Avoid giving names as people depend on their jobs to support themselves or family members of their household.

If your company does not have a program in place Call (866) 578-7471 for more information on how you can get help for the person suffering with a substance abuse addiction.

Related Pages