Drinking, Drug Use and Addiction in the Autism Community

Poster A120, Monday, October 8, 11:30 am - 1:00 pm, Essex Ballroom

Elizabeth Kunreuther1, Ann Palmer1; 1University of North Carolina

Up until recently, researchers assumed a substance use diagnosis (SUD) was rare among those with an autism spectrum diagnosis (ASD). Common misconceptions regarding adolescents and adults with an ASD such as rule following, social challenges, sheltered living, and sensory aversions to alcohol/drug delivery and the environments where substance use may occur were protective factors putting individuals with an autism diagnosis at low risk for developing an SUD. Recent population-based studies have debunked these assumptions with one study indicating individuals with ASD may be twice as likely to develop an SUD than the general population. This presentation addresses the IEPA conference's theme of Prevention and Early Intervention. The goal of early intervention is often the mainstreaming of children with an ASD with expectations of socializing, managing the stress of complicated academic demands, meeting deadlines and generally fitting in. Mainstreaming has presented a host of challenges for someone with an ASD to navigate. Co-occuring anxiety, depression and ADD also put those with an ASD at risk. The presenters will give a brief overview of the research and literature on this topic, they will then introduce the risk and protective factors for those with an ASD for developing an SUD. The presenters will also address the use of substances as a means of self-medicating or coping, how autism and addiction affect one another and some of the behavioral connections such as perseveration and a desire for routine. The presenters will conclude with strategies for prevention, identification/screening and treatment options for those dually diagnosed.

Topic Area: Substance Use

Back to Poster Schedule