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Millions of Americans are recovering from substance use disorders, so if you or a loved one struggle with alcohol or drug abuse, you are not alone. In fact, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) estimates that about 19% of Americans have used illicit drugs in the past year, and 16.6 million Americans are heavy alcohol users.

A substance use disorder occurs when a person’s use of alcohol or another substance (drug) leads to ongoing health issues or problems at work, school or home. Substance use disorders lead people to neglect normal activities so they can obtain their substance of choice and use it.

People with this condition usually progress from experimentation to occasional use and then to heavy use and sometimes abuse. If your use of alcohol or other drugs leads to persistent conflict or failure to meet obligations at home, work or with family, it’s time to talk to a healthcare professional.

Here are some symptoms of substance abuse:

Impaired Control – a person is unsuccessful in stopping or reducing their use on their own, has cravings to use, and spends a lot of time using or recovering from substance use

Social Impairment – a person neglects their obligations at home or work to use substances and reduces or gives up social, occupational or recreational activities for the same reason

Risky Use – the person continues to use alcohol or drugs despite worsening medical or psychological problems

Pharmacological symptoms – a person must use more alcohol or drugs to get the desired effect

Withdrawal – a person has negative physical effects when he or she quits using the substance

Taking the first steps

If you believe you are abusing substances, how do you take the first steps to recovery?

ASK – Ask family and friends if your behavior is causing them concern.

TALK- Talk to your doctor, a therapist, family member or friend about how to get help.

ACT – Schedule an appointment with an addictions specialist, attend a support group meeting.

BELIEVE- Say out loud you can recover and you are worth the effort.

Treatment options

Psychotherapy helps you locate resources – such as Alcoholics Anonymous — to manage your use of substances. This type of therapy also helps you develop more effective coping skills. Therapy sessions may be one-on-one and/or in group settings.

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) offers a services locator to help those in need find support in their communities. Its National Helpline also provides 24-hour free and confidential help.


The road to recovery begins with opening up about your concerns to someone you trust. Don’t ignore your feelings or avoid talking about your concerns. Your doctor is a great resource you can trust for information about managing and treating substance abuse.


Community Meetings

Check for support group meetings in your area through Narcotics Anonymous or Alcoholics Anonymous. If you have a loved one with substance abuse disorder, Al-Anon is a group to share those experiences. UCF hosts group meetings for people seeking recovery. You can view the calendar at


If you or your loved one aren’t quite ready to seek in-person help, there are national helplines that can ease you into your path of recovery.
Here are a few helplines available for 24-hour, confidential support:

National Helpline: 1-800-662-HELP (4357)
Support for all mental and substance use disorders, as well as prevention and treatment advice

Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-237-TALK (8255)
Prevention hotline available for anyone contemplating suicide or undergoing extreme emotional distress

National Drug Helpline: 1-888-633-3239
Support for those struggling with drug and alcohol abuse or addiction

Start your road to recovery today in a way that works for you, and don’t be afraid to speak with your doctor about preventing, managing and treating substance disorders.

September’s Health Tips will focus on recovery topics in support of National Recovery Month. Learn more about UCF health and wellness services, including recovery support, at

Weekly Health Tips are brought to you by UCF Health, the College of Medicine’s physician practice. Offering primary and specialty care under one roof, UCF Health treats patients age 16 and up in primary care and age 18 and up for specialty care. Most major insurance plans are accepted. Two locations are now open: the original in East Orlando at Quadrangle and University boulevards just blocks from the main UCF campus, and the newest one in Medical City at Narcoossee Road and Tavistock Lakes Boulevard. Information for both facilities can be found at, or call (407) 266-DOCS to schedule an appointment.

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