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October 11, 2019


ThedaCare Providers Explain Importance of Recognizing Addiction

October 11, 2019


ThedaCare Providers Explain Importance of Recognizing Addiction

MENASHA, Wis. – October is National Substance Abuse Prevention Month, highlighting the role substance abuse plays in individual and community health.

“Substance abuse is serious because it may be a symptom of the disease of addiction,” said Veronica “Roni” Wright, an AODA (alcohol and other drug) substance abuse counselor with ThedaCare Behavioral Health. “A disease is defined as any illness that interferes with a person’s ability to function normally.”

Substance abuse may involve alcohol, prescription drugs, illegal drugs or a combination thereof. The misuse of drugs and alcohol is the leading cause of preventable illnesses and premature death in America, according to the American Psychological Association (APA). Wright noted that alcohol is the most widely used drug, especially in Wisconsin.

According to the Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS), Wisconsin ranks as one of the top two states in the country for binge drinking, which is defined by the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism as four or more drinks for women or five or more drinks for men in a two-hour period.

The Wisconsin DHS also reports that alcohol consumption in Wisconsin is 28 percent higher than the national average. The problem with social drinking, Wright noted, is that for those with dependency issues, it can lead to addiction.

“No one goes out binge drinking with their friends with the intention of becoming an alcoholic,” Wright said. “The problem is that people who have the tendency toward addictive behavior may move along to more intense drinking. That’s when the progressive nature of the disease takes over and causes someone’s drinking behavior to get worse over time.”

Wright explained many may not be aware of their own addictive behaviors.

“The dangerous thing is we don’t know who has those addictive tendencies so we don’t know for whom social drinking can lead to a serious problem,” Wright said. “Those people are just having fun like their friends; they’re not doing anything deliberate or evil, but they may develop a serious problem in time.”

Wright is most concerned by those who drink to avoid their reality.

“When someone is using alcohol or drugs to avoid emotional feelings, that is the biggest warning sign that they are moving into the substance abuse/addiction area,” she said. “What typically happens next is they justify more and more excuses for drinking or using.”

She said the excuses may turn into other negative behaviors.

“They may not want others to know how much they’re using or drinking so they become secretive,” she said. “Lying and other defenses start coming into play. Denial is another indicator of a problem. Denial is extraordinarily destructive for an individual suffering from the disease of addiction.”

Wright explained many times, people may start out drinking socially as a way to connect with people. Over time alcohol dependency may deplete the person’s ability to be emotionally available to others.

“By the time we see most people in counseling they are suffering the disease so badly they’ve hurt their family or they have legal issues,” she said. “They’re coming to us at a much later stage of the disease and they’re no longer emotionally capable of connecting with their kids, spouse, boss, friends or people in the community.”

She does want people to know there is hope.

“Like any disease, addiction can be treated, and generally people have several options for treatment,” Wright said. “We offer walk-in hours, no appointment needed. You can simply show up, talk with a substance abuse counselor and have an assessment completed. This assessment will help determine appropriate treatment.”

Caitlin Reider, another AODA substance abuse counselor with ThedaCare Behavioral Health, offers these guidelines to help recognize addiction:

  • Are you breaking limits you set for yourself?
  • Are you engaging in risky behavior such as driving while intoxicated?
  • Are you saying hurtful things to people you love when you are intoxicated or recovering from intoxication?
  • Is your drinking or substance abuse causing relationship problems?
  • Have others expressed concerns about your drinking or substance abuse?
  • Are you hiding your drinking or substance abuse behavior?
  • Is your drinking interfering with your obligations?
  • Are you going to work under the influence or hung over or calling in sick because of those conditions?
  • Is your drinking or substance abuse causing problems at home or at school?

In early 2018, ThedaCare launched the opioid awareness campaign developed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “It only takes a little to lose a lot”. The public will see different forms of campaign presence, including billboards, medication take back boxes, social media and public service announcements across the nine county service area. Goals of the campaign include fewer prescriptions written for opioids, more people accessing addiction and recovery services and ultimately lower rates of hospitalizations, emergency department visits and deaths due to opioid overdose.

If you or someone you know is struggling with addiction, please contact a treatment service such as the Wisconsin Addiction Recovery Helpline through 2-1-1 or ThedaCare Behavioral Health.

About ThedaCare

For more than 110 years, ThedaCare® has been committed to improving the health of the communities it serves in Northeast and Central Wisconsin. The organization delivers care to a community of more than 600,000 residents in 14 counties and employs more than 7,000 healthcare professionals. ThedaCare has 180 locations including seven hospitals located in Appleton, Neenah, Berlin, New London, Shawano, Waupaca and Wild Rose. ThedaCare is the first in Wisconsin to be a Mayo Clinic Care Network Member, giving our specialists the ability to consult with Mayo Clinic experts on a patient’s care. ThedaCare is a not-for-profit healthcare organization with a level II trauma center, comprehensive cancer treatment, stroke and cardiac programs as well as a foundation dedicated to community service.

For more information, visit or follow ThedaCare on Facebook and Twitter.

Media should call Cassandra Wallace, Public Relations Specialist at 920.442.0328 or the ThedaCare Regional Medical Center-Neenah switchboard at 920.729.3100 and ask for the marketing person on call.

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