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Understanding Substance Use Disorder

What it is and is not. Addiction is widely misunderstood and stigmatized. Many still believe that addiction is a failure of character, something that happens as a result of a lack of willpower. This could not be further from the truth. 

Understanding Substance Use Disorder

Today, science has helped us in understanding substance use disorder as a treatable, chronic, medical disease.

Some people with addiction use substances that create a complex system of chemical relief and reward in the brain, which leads the whole body into cravings and dependency – or a substance use disorder. Similar to other conditions like heart disease and diabetes, risk for addiction can tie into genetic factors and external factors beyond your control. There is often times a close tie between having a traumatic experience and addiction to substances, relationships, food, shopping, gambling, to name a few. Women may also develop a substance use disorder earlier in their substance use than men. 

Fortunately, like many other diseases, addiction is treatable and prevention and treatment efforts are successful. 

Some symptoms of substance use disorder include:

  • Behavioral signs related to substance use like interpersonal conflicts, changes to mood or habit, declining mental health, legal and financial troubles 
  • Physical signs like chemical tolerance, withdrawal, confusion, weight loss and poor overall physical health 

To explore whether you or someone you care about may have an addiction, you can take an anonymous, confidential assessment online. It cannot give you a diagnoses, but it can help guide you or your loved one towards professional addiction and mental heath services. 

Take the short assessment now >>

Why trauma-informed treatment is the key to success 

In childhood, overwhelming stress can trigger the brain and body to adapt in order to stay safe and alive. It is very important that this adaptation take place—however, there can be serious consequences when the child becomes an adult and has little experience in forming healthy coping skills and safe relationships as a partner, mother, colleague or friend. Some women turn to using alcohol or drugs to deal with an overwhelming situation. 

Many women experience this complex intersection between trauma, mental health problems, physical illness and chemical dependency. Women with co-occurring mental health problems like depression, anxiety and PTSD are much more likely to become chemically dependent. More than 85% of the women we serve have experienced significant trauma in their lives and more than 60% have complex medical needs. 

Wayside has worked diligently over six decades to develop and sustain the expertise required to address the unique needs of women and families. While other facilities may help women address either their chemical health or their mental health, we believe that addressing both at once is the best path to long-term recovery from substance use disorder.