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How the Show “Intervention” Has Changed the Way We See Addiction

How the Show “Intervention” Has Changed the Way We See Addiction

How the Show “Intervention” Has Changed the Way We See Addiction

September 15, 2017
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The wildly popular TV show “Intervention” has inevitably impacted the way its viewers (and all those cognizant of the show) view addiction and those it afflicts. “Intervention” is an American documentary television series that premiered on March 6, 2005 on the channel A&E. It follows one/two participant(s), who are dependent or are addicted on a substance or behavior, documented in anticipation of an intervention by family and/or friends. During the intervention, each participant is given an ultimatum: go into rehabilitation immediately, or risk losing contact, income, or other privileges from the loved ones who instigated the intervention. The producers usually follow up a while later to monitor the addicted person's progress and film it for "follow-up" episodes of the series or for shorter "web updates" available on the show's website.

Interventions don’t just happen on the aptly named show, however. An intervention is a carefully planned process that may be done by family and friends, in consultation with a doctor or professional such as a licensed alcohol and drug counselor or directed by an intervention professional (interventionist). During the intervention, these people gather together to confront a loved one about the consequences of addiction and ask him or her to accept treatment. The intervention often provides specific examples of destructive behaviors and their impact on the loved one’s family and friends. The intervention also offers a prearranged treatment plan with clear steps, goals and guidelines and spells out what each person will do if the loved one refuses to accept treatment.

Intervention has invariably affected the way we, as a society view addiction and recovery. On one hand, the show has proven very helpful in aiding cognizance of the disease of addiction, an incredibly widespread illness that affects 23.5 million Americans, or roughly one in 10 Americans over the age of 12. “Intervention” gives viewers an idea of what addicts are up against, what drugs are being widely abused and what active addiction commonly looks like. It also gives family and friends with an addicted loved one hope and guidance for how to properly intervene and suggest treatment. This is incredibly important as addiction can often feel incredibly dark and hopeless, both for the one addicted and those watching the illness unfold. However, the show can often paint treatment optimistically, as recovery is an unwitting and evolving process, often taking several attempts, more than the secured rehab trip at the end of the show suggests. The chronic nature of the disease of drug/alcohol addiction means that relapsing to drug abuse at some point is not only possible, but likely. Relapse rates (i.e., how often symptoms recur) for people with addiction and other substance use disorders are similar to relapse rates for other well-understood chronic medical illnesses such as diabetes, hypertension and asthma, which also have both physiological and behavioral components. Drug addiction witnesses a relapse rate of approximately 40 to 60 percent. However, recovery is incredibly possible and has been achieved by a number of participants on the show.