The Relationship Between Substance Use Disorder and Autism

January 31, 2022

1 in 5 Young Adults Treated for Addiction May Have Undiagnosed Traits of ASD 

A recent paper published in The American Journal of Addictions is the first to examine the prevalence of previously undiagnosed traits of autism among teens and young adults with substance use disorders. The study’s results showed that among participants (average age 18.7 years) treated in an outpatient substance-use disorder clinic, 20% had elevated scores on the Social Responsiveness Scale-2 (SRS-2), a parent- or teacher-reported measure which has been shown to identify the presence and severity of social impairment. The SRS-2 also has the ability to distinguish between autism and other disorders. This new research differentiates itself from other previous studies by investigating how many people with substance-use disorder have autism instead of examining substance-use disorder in those who are already diagnosed on the spectrum. The study’s design involved asking parents of 69 teens and young adults who were first time participants in a specialty outpatient psychiatric substance-use disorder clinic to fill out the SRS-2 form. The results demonstrated that adolescents with higher SRS-2 scores had a nearly eightfold greater likelihood of stimulant-use disorder, and a fivefold higher risk for opioid-use disorder. The study’s authors point to the need for clinicians to improve screening and recognizing the presence of autism spectrum disorder in the substance-use disorder patients. To assist in this effort, the authors are developing a free clinical therapy protocol that can help clinicians better address the issue of autistic traits in patients with substance use disorders.  


Original Article 

Original Study

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