Autistic People Are At Increased Risk For Substance Abuse

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The more we learn about the autism spectrum disorder, the more beneficial autism and Asperger’s treatment will be. It has always been believed that people on the autism spectrum are at a low risk for substance abuse. Since they tend to be more reserved and socially withdrawn, they are more likely to avoid substances in the first place, in theory. But new research from the Washington University School of Medicine has found the opposite to be true: in a study of 3,080 Australian twins, people with autism were found to be more likely to abuse alcohol and marijuana.

About 20% of the twins tested in the study met the criteria for alcoholism. But of the people with autism, 35% were dependent on alcohol and 39% were using marijuana. While the people on the autism spectrum were no more likely to try alcohol or marijuana initially, they seemed to be more likely to become addicted or abuse the substance. People self-medicate for many reasons. The autistic people studied may indulge in substances to feel more “normal” in social settings, or autistic tendencies may be a risk factor for substance abuse.