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Life is challenging in so many ways, especially during a public health emergency. When times get tough, people may turn to alcohol or drugs to cope with stress or emotions.

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. Problem with alcohol or drugs may also begin in childhood or during the teen years.

Substance abuse vs. addiction; what’s the difference?

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.

Know the signs

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

What can you do?

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

  • Contact a health care professional.
  • Locate virtual treatment and recovery programs.
  • Take a self-check quiz
  • Check out this video
  • Attend therapy, treatment or support meetings.
  • Take medicine as prescribed.
  • Consider healthier options for stress and coping, such as exercise, meditation or reaching out to friends and family.
  • Call the National Drug and Alcohol Treatment Referral Routing Service at 1-800-662-HELP (4357).

Asking for help can be challenging, but you’re not alone.

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.

We’re here for you, 24/7

Call Horizon Behavioral Health at 1-800-626-2212 or visit us at We’ll connect you to services and programs to help support you and your family.

Sources: CDC, WebMD: What Is Substance Abuse?; Substance Abuse vs. Addiction: What's the Difference?

Asking for help can be challenging, but you’re not alone.

Call 1-800-991-5579, 24/7.

The dedicated Horizon Behavioral Health care team will work with you, your family, caretakers and doctors to make sure you get the most from your benefits to get the treatment and support you need.

You can also find a behavioral health professional online.