Substance Use

Substance use affects the health of millions of Americans. In 2018, among people ages 12 and older in the U.S.:1

  • 60% were estimated to have used tobacco, alcohol, or unlawful drugs in the past month.
  • About 20 million people had a substance addiction in the past year.

Long-term substance use can hurt the body. A person with a substance use problem may develop related health problems over time. These problems can include lung or heart disease, cancer, stroke, and mental health conditions.2

There are programs and other resources that can help if you or a loved one misuses substances.

The following questions may help you understand whether you are in need of substance use services:3

  • Do you have cravings and urges to use alcohol or a drug?
  • Do you spend a lot of time getting, using, or recovering from alcohol or a drug?
  • Do you consume alcohol or a drug in larger amounts or for longer than intended?
  • Do you consume alcohol or a drug in larger amounts to get the same effect?
  • Do you want to cut down or stop using alcohol or a drug, but can’t?
  • Do you struggle to manage tasks at work, home, or school because of alcohol or drug use?
  • Do you give up important activities because of alcohol or drug use?
  • Do you feel irritable or nervous when you don’t consume alcohol or a drug?
  • Do you keep using alcohol or a drug, even when it creates new problems or makes old ones worse?

If you answered “yes” to some or all of these questions, you may benefit from getting help around substance use.3

For more information, view the Step by Step Guides to Finding Treatment for Drug Use Disorders by the National Institute on Drug Abuse. 

What you can do

There are programs and support services that can help you overcome substance use disorder.

Here are some resources available to you:

  • Call Member Services at 1-888-276-2020 to find out the services available to you as a First Choice member. You can also ask to speak to a Care Manager or our Rapid Response and Outreach Team for help.
  • Call the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) hotline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357) to find resources and get support.
  • Visit the National Institute on Drug Abuse to learn more about the connection between substance use and your physical and mental health.
  • Read our information on opioids, and their risks and dangers.

Get help to quit smoking

Call the S.C. Tobacco Quitline at 1-800-QUIT-NOW (784-8669) or enroll at The Quitline is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Quitline services include one-on-one coaching online or on the phone and a plan to quit that’s designed for you. Eligible South Carolinians who enroll in Quitline services can receive nicotine patches, gum, or lozenges at no cost to them.


  1. “Key Substance Use and Mental Health Indicators in the United States: Results From the 2018 National Survey on Drug Use and Health,” SAMHSA,
  2. “Addiction and Health,” National Institutes of Health, National Institute on Drug Abuse,
  3. “How to Recognize a Substance Use Disorder,” National Institutes of Health, National Institute on Drug Abuse,