An easy place to start the discussion of addiction in the media is the portrayal of “interventions.” Interventions are repeatedly presented by the media as the most reasonable course of action for getting people to engage in treatment. Despite the supposed popularity of this method, research suggests that interventions are actually one of the least effective strategies for motivating people to seek treatment. Across a number of studies, interventions ended up engaging the “addict” less than a third of the time (Meyers and Wolfe) compared to more effective interventions like CRAFT that engage up to 70% of clients.
Follow this link to read a CMC article recently published in The Addictions Newsletter (an official publication of the American Psychological Association’s addictions division) on the challenges of providing evidence-based family approaches like CRAFT in a media-influenced culture that so often assumes the Intervention is the only option. (Look for the article on page 18.)
Television programs about interventions (like the popular A&E show Intervention) appear to meet our society’s obsession with the quick fix and attraction to high drama. Unfortunately, they do a potentially huge disservice to the actual work that goes into helping someone struggling with an alcohol and drug problem to enter treatment. They support the myth that “breaking through denial” in an aggressive way is the only way to get a substance abuser to accept there is a problem and accept help. These portrayals are in direct conflict with the large number of studies that show direct confrontation is one of the least effective ways of helping people accept the need to change (see here for more about confrontation in addiction treatment).