The Importance of Early Intervention for Recovery
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The Importance of Early Intervention for Recovery


When a person starts to engage in alcohol or substance abuse, and becomes involved in increasingly risky behaviors as a result of their harmful drinking or drug use, early identification and intervention can be crucial to putting a stop to the problem before it increases in severity and complexity.

This intervention may start when the person talks to a doctor, who is seeing the individual for another health reason, potentially related to their alcohol or substance abuse. It can also come from the family members and friends closest to the person, who see and are affected by the risky actions associated with the individual’s drinking or drug use. The person abusing drugs or alcohol can also have the insight and awareness to recognize that their actions are becoming problematic, where they are motivated to make changes.

When a person chooses to actively address their harmful drinking or drug taking before it becomes embedded and chronic, this gives that person a chance to respond to early intervention treatments, rather than needing intensive residential support in order to achieve a full recovery. Early intervention treatment can help to address the root cause of problem sooner and help a person to learn new, healthier behaviors so that they are able enjoy their life once again.

Reducing the Damage Caused by Addiction

Typically, a person with a long-term addiction will enter treatment when something in their life happens that is completely out of control. At this time, they are likely to have been confronted with their problem and will usually receive treatment due to a drastic and pivotal consequence of their drinking or drug abuse. They may have been in a serious accident, been seriously injured, lost their job, been arrested or experienced a relationship breakdown. At this point in their addiction, they are also likely to have caused serious damage to their body, where a serious health scare may have led them to treatment.

With the right action and treatment model, there doesn’t need to be a steady downward fall into addiction, where lifelong or ongoing damage is caused. Early intervention can put a stop to the abuse and reduce the likelihood of long-lasting or permanent damage. It gives a person the opportunity to address the problem before it becomes chronic.

Early Intervention for Focused Yet Flexible Treatment

At Priory Hospital Bristol, we find that our day care programs help to facilitate earlier intervention as people are encouraged to seek help sooner than they would have done if they had chosen to ‘wait until they felt ready’ for inpatient treatment.

This flexible treatment can be less overwhelming than a full inpatient program, meaning people are more encouraged to attend rather than worrying, putting off and seeing their abuse or addiction worsen.

A day care or outpatient program with a focused, yet minimalistic framework gives a person the flexibility to make the treatment work for them. A person gets access to the early treatment that they need, while being able to continue meeting everyday obligations related to their work, home and family life.

A typical week can range from a weekly one-to-one therapy session with an addiction therapist to attending three to four groups and one-to-one sessions from Monday to Friday. The frequency and intensity of the treatment provided on a day care or outpatient basis will always depend on the individual and the levels of their drinking or drug taking.

The Importance of Family in Early Intervention Treatment

At Bristol, we believe that families and significant others should also be involved in a person’s treatment and recovery, even during early treatment.

The harmful drinking or drug taking that has taken place is likely to have already impacted relationships, so family therapy sessions can be an important element of early treatment. It allows for the exploration of family dynamics as well as a deeper understanding of the substance abuse itself. The sessions also allow people to develop strategies for life moving forward, and with the participation of family members and friends, we find that the prognosis for recovery is better.

For anyone who is dealing with harmful drinking or drug taking, don’t be afraid to seek help. And if you are worried about a person who you are close to, don’t be afraid to raise the issue. Understandably, this may be tough. A person may try to hide their problems, be too ashamed to reach out for help or attempt to manage the issue themselves. But, the earlier treatment is sought, the sooner everyone can regain their life once again.

Derek Hart is an addiction therapist at Priory Hospital Bristol, an addiction treatment hospital that provides a day-care program to people in the UK who need professional support.

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