Autistic Youth at Increased Risk for Alcoholism: Study

First Posted: May 04, 2014 11:50 PM EDT

A recent study shows that autistic young adults may be at an increased risk for alcoholism.

"Drinking to intoxication is a social activity that is more likely to occur in a group," said first author Duneesha De Alwis, PhD, a postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Psychiatry, via a press release. "People with autistic traits can be socially withdrawn, so drinking with peers is less likely. But if they do start drinking, even alone, they tend to repeat that behavior, which puts them at increased risk for alcohol dependence."

The study involved 3,080 Australian twins and numerous interviews regarding their difficulties with social-interaction and how for some, this can be a predisposition to alcoholism and possibly other addictions.

Participants were interviewed and given surveys to determine any symptoms relating to attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, including difficulty concentrating and overall inattention.

"There seems to be a strong genetic overlap between ADHD and autism," De Alwis added, via the release. "And it's very common for people with ADHD to have autistic traits. These individuals may not have an autism spectrum disorder, but they typically score high on measurements of autistic traits."

Findings showed that those with more ADHD symptoms were more likely to abuse alcohol than others. They were also more likely to use other drugs, including cigarettes and marijuana. In fact, findings revealed that around 39 percent of those with six or more autistic traits had used marijuana more than 10 times in their lives.

Findings also revealed that while those with ADHD were more likely to engage in social drinking, those with autistic traits who drank were less likely to drink socially or till the point of intoxication. However, those that did drink were at an increased risk of alcohol dependence.

More information regarding the findings can be seen via the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs.

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