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You might assume and think that alcohol and autism are a combination that should not happen, and you wouldn’t be wrong. Because we live in a world far from ideal, however, it’s an occurrence that happens more times than it should. Research has shown that the risk of substance abuse in individuals with Autism is twice as much as individuals without it. Because there are about 75,000,000 individuals in the world living with autism and around 700,000 individuals in the UK alone, the condition and all associated risk factors and dangers must be discussed.

If you or anyone you know is autistic and is struggling with Alcoholism, and you are not sure what to do, kindly call 0203 955 7700, and an experienced advisor will be on the phone to assist you.

What is the Autism Spectrum Disorder?

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), which is popularly just referred to as autism, refers to a complex developmental condition that involves persistent challenges with social interaction, restricted or repetitive behaviours, and speech and nonverbal communication. Autism is viewed on a spectrum which means that the symptoms may vary from person to person and may impact different aspects of the lives of those affected by it.

It is a developmental disorder usually diagnosed in early childhood, around 2-3 years, where the symptoms and signs become very obvious. Children may generally develop until they start having challenges and are typically unable to either learn new skills or begin to lose previously learned ones. The condition is much more common in boys than it is in girls. The disease cannot be cured but managed throughout the individual’s life. Based on the severity of the condition and which part of the spectrum the individual falls, they may or may not live an independent life.

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Symptoms and Characteristics of Autism Spectrum Disorder

No two individuals can have autism in the same way, as stated earlier. The condition is, however, typically diagnosed as either mild or severe. This severity is, however, not static and can change as the individual develops. The Symptoms can be categorised into two, they are:

Social Interaction and Communication Problems: Individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder or ASD for short typically have difficulties in normal social interactions involving conversations, expression of emotions and interests. These things seem natural and straightforward to the average person without the condition, but it is a significant challenge for someone with the condition. There are also challenges in understanding or responding to social cues. They also have challenges initiating, maintaining and developing relationships with close family and friends.

Restricted and Repetitive Patterns of Activities, Behaviours or Interests: Individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder are usually characterised by repetitive behaviours, activities, or interests. A slight change to any of these can affect the day to day functioning of the individual. They sometimes have a significant need for similar predictable routines and structures. They also experience the sensory aspects of the world differently from others and may become obsessed with things that others might regard as an unusual way. For example, they may have a unique way of talking, which may mimic an earlier experience or even their favourite TV shows. They can quickly become overwhelmed by sensory stimuli that might be normal to others.

Aside from these symptoms, they might be prone to seizures, insomnia and mental illness. The level of intelligence may vary from one person to the other. Some may have an average level of intelligence, whilst some may be lower than average. There is a tendency for some to experience higher brightness levels depending on where they fall on the spectrum. 

Does Alcohol Cause Autism Spectrum Disorder?

It is no secret that exposing an unborn baby to alcohol can lead to severe neurological impairments, abnormal congenital disabilities, and in some extreme cases, a miscarriage or death. Babies whose mothers drink typically develop Fetal Alcohol Syndrome. This results in some congenital disabilities and irreversible damage to the child’s central nervous system. This cannot be cured but only managed by the parents of the child. There is enough data and documentation to support these assertions regarding Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, yet the same can not be said for Autism Spectrum Disorder.

No correlation has been found between alcohol use and Autism Spectrum Disorder. Although the Fetal Alcohol Syndrome and the Autism Spectrum Disorder might share some similarities, that’s where it ends. There is no correlation between the two. The probability of having Autism Spectrum Disorder can be linked to factors such as:

These factors play a significant role in determining if a child might have autism. However, research so far has shown that alcohol plays no part in the development of autism.

What is the relationship between Autism Spectrum Disorder and Alcoholism?

After describing the autism spectrum disorder, you might be wondering if it is connected to alcoholism in any way. Alcohol is an antidepressant that many individuals resort to whenever they are anxious. However, continuous use of alcohol to control an anxiety-inducing situation could eventually lead to an addiction or alcohol dependence. Developing a dependence means that the individual will experience withdrawal symptoms whenever alcohol fails to be introduced into the body in a certain quantity at certain time intervals.

Individuals with Autism tend to have a lot of anxiety when it comes to social interactions. Depending on how severe the condition might be, the individual may not understand social interactions or meaningful contributions to them. This could make the individual nervous whenever they have to deal with social situations or interactions. Anyone with Autism going through this might resort to taking alcohol whenever they are anxious. Considering the addictive nature of alcohol and the fact that the individual might experience anxiety more often than they would like, it is plausible that such a person could develop an addiction and a dependency on Alcohol.

Aside from the social impairment, individuals with Autism tend to have repetitions regarding behaviours, interests and activities. For example, they typically need to behave in a certain way or eat certain foods at certain times, which greatly upset the individual when interrupted. If alcohol is introduced to such an individual and they incorporate it into their daily routines, it will be very difficult to get the individual to stop. The person will always need it introduced to them at a particular time, and failure to do so could lead to them acting up. If the person can live by themselves and does so, there is the liberty to satisfy this craving. Continuous satisfaction with it could, however, lead to alcohol dependence or addiction.

The conditions that come with being autistic puts such an individual at risk of becoming dependent or addicted to alcohol should they be introduced to it. Although unlikely if the individual is not exposed to it, autism can put an individual in a condition to start abusing alcohol or become addicted to it.

If you or anyone you know is autistic and is struggling with Alcoholism, and you are not sure what to do, kindly call 0203 955 7700, and an experienced advisor will be on the phone to assist you.

Treatment options for Autistic individuals who are struggling with Alcoholism

Autism and Alcoholism are both severe challenges on their own. Having an individual struggle with both of them is a profound case that needs to be delicately handled. Therapy works best for autistic individuals who are struggling with alcohol dependency or addiction. The treatment will uncover why the individual might have started using alcohol in the first place. Suppose it began to or is being used as a way to manage anxiety and stress. In that case, the therapist will help them deal with the stressor, such as social situations and the inability to initiate and maintain relationships.

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) is the most employed form of therapy for autistic individuals who struggle with alcohol. This method typically sees much success compared to medication since obsessive thoughts and rigid behavioural patterns are usually the root causes of the whole situation. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy might be altered to suit the individual and his condition. The approach used for individuals not struggling with autism may not see the same success when used with individuals struggling with autism. It is, therefore, best to engage individuals or institutions that have success.

If you or anyone you know is autistic and is struggling with Alcoholism, and you are not sure what to do, kindly call 0203 955 7700, and an experienced advisor will be on the phone to assist you.

Conclusion

Individuals struggling with autism need all the support they can get as they are more likely to struggle with or be exasperated by things that might come naturally to other humans. 

Alcohol is an antidepressant that many individuals resort to whenever they are anxious. However, continuous use of alcohol to control an anxiety-inducing situation could eventually lead to an addiction or alcohol dependence. Developing a dependence means that the individual will experience withdrawal symptoms whenever alcohol fails to be introduced into the body in a certain quantity at certain time intervals. For this reason, they must be encouraged and given access to professional help where applicable. Doing so will prevent them from slipping into behaviours such as alcoholism which will worsen their plight. 

If you are autistic or someone close to you is unsure how to help them, kindly call 0203 955 7700,and an experienced advisor will be on the phone to assist you.

Frequently asked questions

No, it is a condition that can be managed but not necessarily cured.
No, no correlation has been found between the consumption of alcohol and autism. However, fetal alcohol syndrome is a possible problem. Depending on how much you drank, it could have put your baby at risk, and you might have to see your physician or doctor immediately.  You can also call us on 0203 955 7700, and an experienced advisor will be on the phone to assist you.

Not exactly! Individuals with autism can develop alcoholism, yet it is not an automatic process. If the condition is managed well and the individual is helped to live the best of his life despite their condition, the person will not have to rely on alcohol to deal with their anxieties. If you are not sure how to raise and help your autistic child, you can call us anytime on 0203 955 7700, and an experienced advisor will be on the phone to assist you.

About Author

Nicholas Conn

Nicholas Conn

Nicholas Conn is a leading industry addiction expert who runs the UK’s largest addiction advisory service and is regularly featured in the national press, radio and TV. He is the founder and CEO of a drug and alcohol rehab center called Help4addiction, which was founded in 2015. He has been clean himself since 2009 and has worked in the Addiction and Rehab Industry for over a decade. Nick is dedicated to helping others recover and get treatment for drug and alcohol abuse. In 2013, he released a book ‘The Thin White’ line that is available on Amazon.

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