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Autistic Youth Are Vulnerable to Alcohol Dependence

Experts have long believed autistic youth were not at risk for developing alcoholism.

However, new research published in the March 2014 Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs brings that train of thought into question. Conducted at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, researchers wanted to evaluate specific traits linked to autism and if they potentially put young adults with autistic tendencies at risk for alcohol abuse.

The newly published study was a group effort on behalf of the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), and the National Institute of Health (NIH). Participants were screened for the following social effects of autism:

  • Difficulties with social-interaction
  • Communication challenges
  • Incessant drive to perform repetitive behaviors
  • The presence of attention-deficit and hyperactivity disorder symptoms

Understanding Alcohol and Autism

Over the years, drinking alcohol has morphed into a type of social activity. Local bars became popular gathering places; people flocked to small establishments packed with large crowds and plenty of noise. For people with autism, however, that’s a scenario nothing short of a nightmare.

Recognizing that socialization is severely limited, a general and unspoken consensus somehow developed: young adults with autistic tendencies don’t participate in social or binge drinking. While that’s true, autism certainly doesn’t preclude young adults from drinking alcohol as a whole.

Once researchers changed their evaluation processes, pieces of the puzzle began to fall into place. Some groundbreaking data from the study includes:

  • When young autistic adults start drinking, most do so alone.
  • Autism causes people to repeat behaviors, posing an immediate and increased risk for long-term alcohol abuse and alcoholism.
  • The predisposition to repeat behaviors makes alcohol consumption, especially in excessive amounts, so dangerous for autistic youth.
  • For those with six or more autistic traits, 35 percent were alcoholics.
  • Those with more ADHD symptoms were at the highest risk of alcohol abuse.

Treating Alcoholism in Autistic Youth

Someone suffering with a mental disorder and an addiction, such as autism and alcoholism, is said to have a dual diagnoses. During treatment, both conditions are addressed at the same time. For the process to be successful, finding a dual diagnosis recovery facility is essential.

If you or someone you love is struggling from alcohol abuse, take action and learn about alcoholism treatment options to fit your needs. Call and speak with a helpful recovery professional today.

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