Study Finds Autism Traits In Young Adults With Substance Abuse

Study Finds Autism Traits In Young Adults With Substance Abuse

Health News – Researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital revealed how young adults with substance abuse also have undiagnosed autistic traits. The study can help raise awareness about early and undiagnosed autism in substance use disorder (SUD).

A new study sheds light on the increasing overlap of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and substance use disorder (SUD) in teens and young adults.

The researchers studied 69 participants, aged 16–26 years, at an outpatient treatment facility for SUD. The informant-rated Social Responsiveness Scale-2 (SRS-2) was used to measure demographic, psychiatric, and substance-use markers in patients. These included a participant’s social awareness, social cognitive abilities, social communication, social motivation, restricted interests, and repetitive behavior.

Their parents were also asked to participate in a survey to confirm the patients’ statements.

The findings, published in The American Journal on Addictions, revealed undiagnosed autistic traits in young adults with substance abuse.

Researchers found that young adults with substance abuse show previously unrecognized symptoms of severe social impairment, which is commonly prevalent in people with autism. In comparison to patients with lower to no autistic traits, those with elevated autistic traits also had higher susceptibility to stimulant use disorder and opioid use disorder.

The study significantly breaks the usual trend in research around SUD and ASD. It highlights the importance of assessing autistic traits in young adults with substance abuse.

The lead author, James McKowen, said, “We have looked at this question from the other side, asking how many people with substance use disorder have autism.”

The researchers are enthusiastic that the findings can help develop better screening and developmental training interventions for issues around SUD and autism. They are themselves developing a free clinical therapy protocol that can effectively address the issues of autistic traits in patients with SUD.

To Know More You May Refer To

McKowen, J., Woodward, D., Yule, A. M., DiSalvo, M., Rao, V., Greenbaum, J., Joshi, G., & Wilens, T. E. (2021). Characterizing autistic traits in treatment-seeking young adults with substance use disorders. The American journal on addictions, 10.1111/ajad.13247. Advance online publication. https://doi.org/10.1111/ajad.13247

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