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As of June 2020, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that 13 percent of Americans started or increased substance use as a way to cope with the COVID-19 public health emergency. However, people abuse substances such as drugs and alcohol for varied and complicated reasons, not just during a pandemic. Problems with alcohol or drugs may also begin in childhood or during the teen years.

The Difference Between Substance Abuse and Addiction

Substance abuse and addiction occur when alcohol, prescription medicine and other legal and illegal substances are used excessively or in the wrong way. However, substance abuse is not the same as addiction, though it is a cause for concern. People with substance abuse problems can quit or change their unhealthy behavior. Not everyone who abuses substances will go on to develop an addiction. Addiction, on the other hand, is a chronic disease that is difficult to control. It means you can’t just “stop using,” no matter what the negative effects may be.

Signs of Substance Use Disorder

You may have a problem with substance use if you:

  • Have a lack of interest in things you used to love
  • Change your friends
  • Stop taking care of yourself
  • Spend more time alone than before
  • Eat more or less than normal
  • Sleep at odd hours
  • Have problems at work or with family

Am I Drinking Too Much?

Alcohol is the most widely misused substance in America. Dr. Nzinga Harrison, Chief Medical Officer of Eleanor Health, has four questions you can ask yourself to evaluate your substance use.


When we ask ourselves, "Am I drinking too much or am I vaping too much?" The answer is yes. Even the fact that your brain has raised that question for you means regardless how much you're vaping, regardless how much you're drinking, that you have a little bit of worry about it. And if you have a little bit of worry about it, it's too much. That said, it can be easier if you have a discrete set of questions you can ask yourself to say, "Yes, this might be a problem."

So we have a tool that's called the CAGE, C-A-G-E, and ask yourself these four questions. C, have you ever thought I should cut back my drinking, my vaping? A, have you ever felt annoyed when somebody else said to you, "Do you think you should cut back your drinking or your vaping?" G, have you ever felt guilty because I said, "I'm not going to vape today, or I'm only going to drink one glass of wine and I'm vaping and I'm on my third glass." And E is for eye-opener. And this is for first thing in the morning after you wake up and open your eyes, are you thinking about vaping or thinking about drinking or even actually vaping and actually drinking?

So if you answered yes to one or more of those questions on the CAGE, then there's a chance your drinking and your vaping is a problem. Reach out for help and see if we can help you figure out how to get your drinking and vaping to a level that you're more comfortable with.

If you or someone you care about is abusing alcohol or other substances, there are ways you can get help:

Substance Use Disorder can ruin your relationships and your financial well-being — it can even take your life. While it is normal to experience a range of negative emotions during difficult times, please don’t ignore them. That’s why reaching out for help is so important.