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Intervention’s success rate is high, but has dropped

Intervention’s success rate is high, but has dropped
Olivia, who injects heroin and meth daily, on A&E's Intervention, a reality show that has a high but declining success rate. (Photo by GRB Entertainment)

After more than 200 episodes, A&E’s Intervention has a significantly higher success rate than typical 12-step sobriety programs, but that success rate has also dropped over the last five years. (The show returned to A&E in March, almost two years after being cancelled.)

As of today, 55 percent of the series’ subjects remain sober, or 151 out of 270 people, according to figures GRB Entertainment, which produces the show, provided to Business Insider.

However, that’s also significantly lower than what producers reported in 2010: a 71 percent success rate, or 130 out of 161.

When the show was cancelled in 2013, producers said 156 out of 243 people were still sober.

Let’s recap:

  • 2010: 71 percent sober (130 people out of 161)
  • 2013: 64.2 percent sober (156 people out of 243)
  • 2015: 55 percent sober (151 people out of 270)

The reasons for Intervention’s success

It’s unclear if that’s because of relapses or less success with more recent cases, or some combination of them.

When I inquired about it, a production source cited both the challenge of keeping track of so many individuals over time and the tendency of addicts to relapse.

Still, Intervention is an incredible success when compared to AA.

Alcoholics Anonymous’ 2014 member survey found that 27 percent of its members were sober less than one year, 24 percent between one and five years, 13 percent between 5 and 10 years, and 22 percent after 20 years.

However, as The Atlantic and other media reported last year, a book about 12-step programs pointed out that:

“Peer reviewed studies peg the success rate of AA somewhere between five and 10 percent. About one of every 15 people who enter these programs is able to become and stay sober.”

Any way you look at the numbers, Intervention is much more successful.

But why? The process of participating in the reality TV show might actually play a role.

Executive producer Jeff Weaver told BI that “we get to send a lot of them off to treatment with a little bit of a head start on evaluating themselves and their lives and what’s led them to this low point. … When our subjects say yes to treatment, they’ve just undergone an intense documentary process where they’re asked hard hitting, deeply personal questions about every aspect of their lives.”

In addition, as has been previously reported, the treatment programs that the show sends its subjects to last for 90 days, not 28, which may also play a significant role.

What’s clear is that a reality television show plays a role in not only educating the public about addiction but also getting people sober.

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About the author

  • Andy Dehnart is the creator of reality blurred and a writer and teacher who obsessively and critically covers reality TV and unscripted entertainment, focusing on how it’s made and what it means. Learn more about Andy.

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