New Study Suggests Strong Link Between Autism and Substance Use Risk
What happened: A new study out of Taiwan reveals that some people on the autism spectrum may be at a higher risk for substance use. Researchers looked at data from the country’s health insurance program to look at whether autism was a risk factor for developing substance use disorder. According to the published findings, data from more than 6,000 patients compared to a control group of neurotypical people showed autistic people were at a higher risk of substance use — but the risk jumped for those who also had behavioral issues and did not take psychotropic medications. Additionally, these combined characteristics were associated with a higher risk of death. The study indicates the need for additional support across the lifespan for autistic people.
Research has identified overlapping neural components between autism and substance use disorder. A new study at #jamapeds examines risk of substance use disorder in individuals with autism spectrum disorder. https://t.co/X93uPWV5U5 pic.twitter.com/Vxxx3ukKSV
— JAMA Pediatrics (@JAMAPediatrics) January 5, 2021
The Frontlines: Approximately one in 54 children are diagnosed as autistic in the United States. Several studies have examined the incidence of mental illness and substance abuse among neurodiverse individuals.
- Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) often occurs with among autistic people, with 28% of people on the spectrum showing clinical signs.
- ADHD has been found to be a strong marker for the risk of developing an addiction.
- One study showed that among people receiving treatment for substance use, 7% were autistic compared to 1% of the general population.
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A Mighty Voice: Our contributor, Lamar Hardwick, who struggled as a teen before being diagnosed as autistic, shared, “At age 14, I turned to drugs and alcohol as a response to pressure to behave like a ‘people person’ and entertain the unreasonable expectations the world placed on me. It led me down a road that dead ends at the corner of lonely and lost. Thankfully, I survived and am doing well today, but decades later I find myself searching for more ways to use my story, my experiences and my past to point other young autistic boys and girls in the right direction. I can’t change my past, but perhaps I can help change someone’s path” You can submit your first-person story, too.
Other things to know: Here is what other autistic Mighty contributors are saying about facing other mental health challenges:
- My Autistic Son’s Biggest Concern When Taking His Medication
- Flying Under the Radar as an Autistic Adult With ADHD
- Finding Healing From Abuse and Mental Illness as Someone on the Spectrum