There is a common misconception that someone needs to reach “rock bottom” before they can accept help. This rock bottom can look different for each individual. For one person, the indicator that they need help with their substance use is when they get into a car accident while driving under the influence and are arrested.

Another person might come to this realization when their marriage starts suffering as a result of their drinking. Someone could realize they have a problem with drugs when they become involved in the child protection system and are at risk of losing their children. An overdose and a stay in the hospital could also signal the necessity of treatment.

Everyone has different breaking points, but the notion of rock bottom is the same – once an individual reaches that point, there is no other option besides admitting they have a problem and that they need to get treatment.

Due to this idea of what rock bottom is and what it means, it is common to associate treatment with failure. If an individual needs to work with a therapist to control their substance use, that must mean they have failed as a parent or spouse, right? This might feel even more true in situations where treatment is mandated or offered as an alternative to incarceration.

Even if that is a convincing narrative to believe, it is not the case. Treatment should be viewed as a positive step toward an individual getting their life back, and this is a path they can embark on well before they reach the point of no return.

The Importance of Early Intervention

People are advised to be screened for certain cancers and other diseases so that they can catch health problems before they are allowed to progress too far. When colon cancer is caught in its earliest stage during a colonoscopy or breast cancer is detected during a regular mammogram, there are more treatment options and the prognosis is better than if these illnesses were only diagnosed in late stages. Likewise, early intervention is important in cases of substance abuse.

For mild cases of substance abuse, the issue can be addressed by a primary care doctor through motivational interventions. This is where an individual is guided to assess and embrace the benefits of changing their behavior as opposed to continuing to use substances.

In these situations, individuals are usually seeking medical attention for a completely unrelated concern when their drinking or drug use is noticed by a physician. Early intervention involves patient education about the risks of certain substances and the appropriate levels of usage, if applicable.

When substance abuse becomes more severe or continues for longer, it most likely needs to be addressed in a specialty outpatient or residential setting, and the process of recovery continues even after treatment has concluded. If someone with mild substance abuse utilizes early intervention services, they are less likely to develop severe substance use disorder (SUD) and other substance-related illnesses and injuries. At this stage, the individual is more in control and able to make changes than someone further in the trenches of addiction.

Continued drug and alcohol use can damage the body and mind, make individuals more susceptible to physical and mental health conditions, and increase the risk of dying from an accident or overdose.

Who Can Benefit From Early Intervention?

Early intervention is especially important for some specific demographics who can be more negatively impacted by continued substance use.

  • Pregnant women who drink or use drugs are key candidates for early intervention because of the risks posed to them and their unborn children.
  • People who drive under the influence are another demographic who could benefit from early intervention because this behavior is very risky and poses an immediate danger to that individual as well as everyone on the road with them.
  • Adolescents who engage in binge drinking can be greatly helped through early intervention, as this behavior is a risk factor for developing substance use disorder later in life.

Even if individuals do not fit in one of these categories, they do not have to wait to get treatment. Hitting rock bottom is not a prerequisite for getting help. This mindset may contribute to the fact that only 1 out of 10 people who need treatment actually seek it out, leaving millions of people trapped in a “treatment gap.”

There are many reasons why someone might be opposed to seeking treatment. It is common for individuals with substance abuse problems to both underestimate the severity of their substance use while maintaining a disproportionate level of confidence in their ability to stop or limit their use. Additionally, many people fear the social repercussions of seeking treatment. These reasons can pave the way to rock bottom, but early intervention can disrupt this process.

Working with a mental health professional to bring the “the bottom” to your loved one through an intervention can offer a way out long before severe and irreversible consequences arise. This involves the family coming together and collaborating to set boundaries and expectations for change while envisioning a shared future to work toward.

Due to the denial and shame surrounding it, substance abuse can often lead someone straight to rock bottom. Although there may have been many opportunities to stop or ask for help, someone might not realize they have a problem until they are in the midst of a crisis. If this sounds like you or a loved one, early intervention might be able to slow and reverse the dangerous process of addiction. At Family-Centered Services, we understand that asking for help can be one of the hardest parts of substance abuse treatment. That is why our licensed clinicians strive to bring “rock bottom” to the identified loved one and help them feel comfortable accepting help. Once treatment starts, we utilize a vast array of services to promote well-being for the whole family, including individual and family therapy, comprehensive case management, and sober accountability. You can learn more by calling (509) 991-5822.