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Sample Intervention Letter: How to

Approximately 10.6 percent of people aged 12 and over used an illicit drug in the past month, in 2016, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Approximately 10.6 percent of people aged 12 and over used an illicit drug in the past month, in 2016, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Anyone who uses illicit drugs is at risk for addiction and overdose. An article published by CNN says that the leading cause of accidental death in the U.S. is a fatal drug overdose.

When a loved one has a substance use disorder, holding an intervention may encourage them to get treatment.

The key is to plan and execute the intervention properly. Part of this is writing an intervention letter that has a positive effect on your loved one.
This isn’t something to do on the fly.

An intervention letter should be written beforehand and revised carefully to ensure it uses the best approach.

Start with a Compassionate Opening

Writing an Intervention Letter 

Compassion is a critical part of helping someone who is struggling with an addiction, according to Beverly Engel, LMFT. The key is to start writing an intervention letter that is compassionate right away, so your struggling loved one does not feel as though the intervention letter is attacking them.

Reassure the person that they are loved and that you care about them and it is stated when writing an intervention letter. This helps prevent the reader from feeling defensive. They will then be more open to listening to the rest of the letter.

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Share a Fond Memory

Share a memory that will make the person remember the days before addiction took over their life. Talk about a vacation, a birth, a wedding, or any other event that helps them to connect with the person they were before addiction took hold of them.

The key to this step is to connect with the person again. Let them know that they are thought about and remembered. They may begin to remember how positive their life used to be before substance abuse.

Be Specific About the Impact of Their Addiction

It is important that they know exactly how their addiction is affecting the people they love. Be very specific about the effects it is having on your life.
Talk about specific incidences. Mention how much the person is missed, and explain the true magnitude of their addiction on you and the people around them.

Keep the language neutral, so the person does not feel attacked. Avoid blaming or negative statements. Again, you want to avoid triggering defensiveness, so they are more open to the idea of getting help.

Be Clear About Understanding Their Struggle

Let the person know that their addiction is not their fault. Addiction is a disease, and make it clear that this is understood.
This is also a good place to introduce the concept of treatment. Let them know that just like any other disease, treatment is necessary for them to recover.

You wouldn’t expect them to manage diabetes or heart disease without professional assistance. The same is true for addiction.

Before writing this part, take some time to learn the basics about addiction. This will ensure that this portion of the intervention letter is authentic and coming from a place of true understanding.

State the Consequences

The person needs to know that they will no longer be enabled if they refuse to seek treatment. Enabling can cause resentment within a family and will continue to absolve someone struggling with addiction from their responsibilities, according to Psych Central.

Kindly state what the bottom line will be. Let the person know what the consequences will be if they decide to not start treatment.

Maybe you will no longer provide financial support when they need it. Maybe you will limit visits with their children. Maybe you will no longer clean up their messes when they are drunk or hungover.

Whatever you choose, stick to what is said here. 

Ask the Person to Get Help

Ask them to get help. Ask in a way that makes them feel like they are not being pressured into going to treatment. It is ultimately their decision.

It is vital that they know they will have support during the process. While stating the bottom line and sticking to it is critical, make sure to offer your support during treatment and ongoing recovery.

Hands about to write an intervention letter

Be specific about what that support will look like — going to therapy together, driving them to appointments, or attending AA meetings with them.

Sample Intervention Letter

There is no specific way to write an effective intervention letter. Follow the tips above to form an outline.

The following is a sample letter that shows how to incorporate these tips into a letter.

Dear Alison,

I love you very much even if I have not said it often recently. I know that you also love me too.

Without you, I would not be who or where I am today. I remember when we were kids and you taught me how to ride a bike. I was so happy, and you were so proud of me.

Your addiction has been a part of our lives for many years now. This is not something that happened overnight. When I try to talk to you, you are often nodding off, and your speech is slurred. Later, you don’t remember anything we have discussed recently.

Our relationship is not what it used to be. I miss my sister. I understand that addiction is a disease and that you cannot just stop using at the drop of a hat. But you can get help. If you continue to use, we will never get our relationship back.

I am here today because I love you. I am asking you to please accept help. We want you back in our lives and we are willing to help and support you on the road to recovery. Will you please accept the help that we are offering today?


Your sister Kristen All of the elements are crucial in the intervention letter. Speak from the heart, and the rest will follow.


Illegal Drug Use. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved February 2019 from

(June 2017) This is America on Drugs: A Visual Guide. CNN. Retrieved February 2019 from

(October 2016) How Compassion Can Help You Support an Addicted Loved One. Psychology Today. Retrieved February 2019 from

(October 2018) Communicating with Someone Who has an Addiction. Verywell Health. Retrieved February 2019 from

(October 2018) Are You an Enabler? Psych Central. Retrieved February 2019 from

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