Interestingly, studies have found that Autistic individuals and those with autistic traits are no more likely to drink than people who are not Autistic, but that those who are Autistic were more likely to become addicted.
A study in Sweden found that autistic individuals are more than twice as likely to become addicted to alcohol or drugs if they have an average or above-average IQ.
The risk was found to be higher for people who also have Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).
The study itself analised national health registry records in Sweden and looked at the link with addiction in the 26,986 people diagnosed with autism out if the 1.3 million Swedes born between 1973 and 2009.
Earlier studies did not take into account those individuals on the spectrum with a higher IQ which is why findings were different in the Swedish study to past studies, as it is these individuals who are most at risk of addiction.
Whilst studies have generally covered drug and alcohol addictions. There is obviously also a risk of other addictions.
So why are these individuals at risk of addiction?
People on the spectrum have a risk of having additional mental conditions such as depression, OCD or anxiety, it is these conditions that often lead people to turn to alcohol or substance use. Paired with the fact that Autistic people are more likely to stick to something and do it over and over again, there is a chance this could lead to addiction.
In general, because alcohol or drugs can make people feel more sociable and less self conscious, those who feel alone or struggle with social situations seem to be more prone to substance abuse. This is also a factor as to why Autistic people may be more at risk of addiction.
What can be done to safeguard against addictions?
The best way is to deal with the underlying causes. To treat any depression or anxiety and to make sure we look out for those on the spectrum, making sure they don’t feel alone or alienated.
For self care it is important that those with ASD are aware of the dangers of addiction and misuse and are careful, avoiding illegal substances and limiting their alcohol intake to recommended safe levels.
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