Alcohol impacts people with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) the same as the general population.
- Lowering of inhibitions – which people with ASD may find helpful in social situations
- Calming effect – which can temporarily calm chaotic thoughts and feelings that accompany ASD
- Risk of misuse – which is higher for those with ASD that do drink
Do people with autism drink alcohol?
Yes – some do. Though, young adults with ASD are much less likely to social or binge drink.
If they do drink, people with ASD are slightly more likely than their peers to develop alcohol problems.
Can people with autism be alcoholics?
Yes. People with ASD on the higher end of the spectrum can do everything that neurotypical people can do, including abusing alcohol.
When autism is accompanied by a diagnosis of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), the risk for addiction problems increases.
Alcohol Misuse: People with ASD vs. General Population
|Age Group||General Population||Autism Diagnosis|
Why are people with autism less likely to misuse alcohol?
While general comparisons show those with ASD at a significantly lower risk of alcohol misuse, this is due to the high percentage of people with ADS that do not want to or are not able to drink.
Access is what lowers the risk of alcohol misuse for people with ASD. (You can’t misuse alcohol if you never use it).
For many, drinking starts in adolescent social situations. Because people with ASD may struggle with social interaction and be less likely to be in these situations, drinking may be delayed or curtailed altogether.
Even if people with ASD end up drinking as adults, they have lowered their risk of developing a problem just by starting later. The earlier you start drinking, the more likely alcohol will become a problem.
Why do people with autism drink alcohol?
Just like the general population, emerging evidence suggests many autistic individuals turn to alcohol (or drugs) to alleviate depression, anxiety or sleep issues or to help to facilitate social interaction.
However, unlike “neurotypicals”, those with ASD that drink may be more likely to repeat the behavior in a ritualic way since repetitive behavior is one of the main diagnostic criteria for ASD.
(See also is alcohol a gateway drug article).
Does alcohol make autism worse?
Alcohol hasn’t been shown to make autism better or worse.
Though, frequent alcohol use worsens depression, anxiety and sleeplessness. Those with ASD are more likely than the general population to struggle with these issues.
Can alcohol help autism?
No. Alcohol creates disease, it does not help with any disease. For those with ASD, it may mask the underlying social anxiety, but drinking does not eliminate the issues.
Those with ASD that try alcohol are more likely to develop an addiction. Addiction is an all-consuming, chronic brain disease with life-threatening mental and physical consequences.
Whether you have ASD or not, there are plenty of harmful effects that alcohol use has on health:
- Long term consumption leads to adverse effects on organs and tissues (See Wet Brain and What are Signs of Liver Damage).
- Acute intoxication can lead to injuries or poisoning
- Dependent drinking can lead to impairment and potentially self-harm or violence
How does alcohol affect someone with Asperger’s?
The signs and symptoms that were once part of an Asperger’s diagnosis now fall under Autism Spectrum Disorder. Since Asperger’s is on the high functioning end of the spectrum, these individuals are more likely to use alcohol than others with ASD.
Everything in the article applies to those with Asperger’s.
How can I help my alcoholic child with autism?
Because both addiction and autism cause people to dislike change, getting them to agree to get help will be challenging. The sooner they get help, the less the damage and weaker the dependence.
Learn how to have a successful intervention for alcohol abuse. Be loving, yet firm on advocating for treatment.
Treatment methods are the same for those with ASD including Cognitive Behavioral Therapies (CBT) and treating underlying issues like depression and social anxiety that fuel the drinking.
- JourneyPure treats patients with high-functioning ASD every day. These patients are usually more willing to apply the structure of healthy living to their daily lives.
- People fly from across the country to our alcohol treatment centers in middle Tennessee.
- An Autism-informed treatment team will know the modifications to make like lower dosage on antidepressant medications.
I wish nothing but peace for you and your child.
JourneyPure.com doctors follow rigorous sourcing guidelines and cite only trustworthy sources of information, including peer-reviewed journals, count records, academic organizations, highly regarded nonprofit organizations, government reports and their own expertise with decades in the fields and their own personal recovery.
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