Do Autism Traits Raise the Risk for Addiction

On the whole, people with autism tend to be cautious and reserved from their peers, protecting them from social situations where drugs and alcohol are involved. However, as the science and medical communities study autism spectrum disorder and its relationship with other disorders, the findings are both interesting and surprising.

Research Finds Link Between Autism Traits and Substance Abuse

In a previous post, we referenced a 2017 study from Sweden. This study found that people with autism with average or above-average IQs were more than twice as likely to become addicted to drugs and alcohol as their peers.

A second study from Washington University School of Medicine looked at over 3,000 Australian twins. Researchers discovered that people with autism traits were more likely to abuse drugs and alcohol than people without them.

The participants in the study were not necessarily diagnosed with autism but had traits of autism, such as repetitive behaviors, social interaction difficulties and communication challenges. The researchers concluded that some characteristics of autism are protective while others may raise the risk for developing addiction.

Is it Possible to Have Autism Traits without Having Autism?

The autism spectrum is vast. Some people have severe symptoms and others have mild symptoms. It is the people with subtler symptoms who may be at an increased risk for addiction. These individuals may be diagnosed with high-functioning autism or Broader Autism Phenotype (BAP), a term used to describe people who have some have autism traits but not enough to have autism.

Mild autism traits include:

  • Social communication difficulties
  • Sensory challenges
  • Need for repetition
  • Preference for predictable routines
  • Difficulty picking up on social cues
  • Having one area of interest

Preventing Substance Abuse in People with High-Functioning Autism

People who have characteristics of autism must be especially diligent in protecting themselves from substance abuse. Prevention is key. Trying something even once can be dangerous. To encourage young people to abstain, education and research-based prevention programs are crucial.

Additional ways to prevent drug and alcohol addiction are:

  • Learn to deal with stress in positive ways
  • Know how to say no to peer pressures
  • Develop close family ties
  • Follow healthy habits like eating nutritious foods
  • Participate in constructive activities and hobbies

An outpatient autism treatment center can be an excellent option for people with autism traits who are struggling with substance abuse. Clients can work on their recoveries while also learning how to live a positive life with social difficulties. To learn more about starting a specialized treatment plan at Awakenings Treatment Center, contact us today.