The Symptoms, Causes, and Treatment of Substance Use Disorder (SUD)

Chances are you or someone you know has been affected by substance abuse or addiction. In 2018, West Virginia ‘led’ all other states in opioid-related deaths occurring per 100,000 residents with a total of 42.4%, nearly 10% higher than the next leading state. 

This doesn’t have to be your fate. We know this topic is a personally sensitive issue to most people. Below we discuss some of the major causes of substance use disorder and the way forward for affected persons. 

What Is It?

Substance Use Disorder or SUD is a mental disorder that affects a person’s brain and behavior, leading to a person’s inability to control their use of substances such as legal or illegal drugs, alcohol, or medications. 

Common Symptoms

Symptoms of SUD can range from moderate to severe, with addiction as the most severe form of the disease. 

There are a variety of symptoms that one could suffer from, commonly referred to as co-occurring disorders. Co-occurring disorders include, but are not limited to, “anxiety disorders, depression, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), bipolar disorder, personality disorders, and schizophrenia, among others.”

Causes of SUD and Co-Occurring Disorders

The onset of these disorders can result from certain hereditary factors, as well as become the product of environment, mental disorders (PTSD), internal pressures (stress), or external pressures (trauma). Again, the use or abuse of medications and other substances also play a role with respect to the development of SUD. 

Each of these increases the chances of developing SUD or co-occurring disorders and should be treated with care. 

Diagnosis and Treatments

It’s typically recommended that both disorders be treated in unison. While correlation does not necessarily indicate causation, one often strengthens the other. 

The first step to diagnosing SUD’s is to seek an evaluation from an accredited, and qualified health care provider. The provider will have the tools and training necessary to diagnose and recommend a helpful treatment plan, including “behavioral therapies and medications tailored to an individual’s specific combination of disorders and symptoms.” 

Commonly recommended behavioral therapies include

  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT): A type of talk therapy aimed at helping people learn how to cope. 
  • Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT): Uses concepts of mindfulness and acceptance or being aware of and attentive to the current situation and emotional state. 
  • Assertive Community Treatment (ACT): A form of community-based mental health care that emphasizes outreach to the community and an individualized treatment approach.
  • Therapeutic Communities (TC): A common form of long-term residential treatment that focuses on helping people develop new and healthier values, attitudes, and behaviors.
  • Contingency Management (CM): Therapy that encourages healthy behaviors by offering vouchers or rewards for desired behaviors.

Certain behavioral therapies are available to adolescents and range from Brief Strategic Family Therapy (BSFT), Multidimensional Family Therapy (MDFT), and Multisystemic Therapy (MST).

While there are a variety of medications that could be used to treat or mitigate substance use disorders, any conversation surrounding potential options should be in discussion with your treatment specialist or health care provider. 

Become a Game Changer Today!

GameChanger is a youth-led initiative designed to educate, support, and empower adolescents to make healthier choices. Our goal is to encourage youth to lead by example, improve futures, and make a difference in the state of West Virginia.

Fueled by the largest Public-Private Coalition in the nation, state departments and related organizations are teaming up with the private and local businesses to meet the needs of substance misuse, namely in teens, throughout the state. 

Now’s the time to stand up and lead the next generation of CHANGE in West Virginia. 

Want to get in the game? Visit

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