Autism spectrum disorder, or ASD, is a type of neurodevelopmental disorder that may be characterized by deficits in communication or social interaction, restricted or repetitive behaviors, and excessive or diminished responses to auditory or visual stimuli.
As the term spectrum indicates, people who have autism spectrum disorder may display a broad range of symptoms and experience a wide range of effects. Some people who have ASD are able to live independently, pursue rewarding careers, and form meaningful friendships. In more extreme cases, other people who have autism spectrum disorder may be incapable of living on their own or caring for themselves.
The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS), which is part of the National Institutes of Health, has compiled a significant amount of information about many important issues related to autism spectrum disorder.
When a person who has autism spectrum disorder struggles with substance abuse and addiction, they risk considerable damage to their physical, emotional, and social well-being. Thankfully, both autism spectrum disorder and substance use disorders are treatable conditions. When a person gets the type and level of care that best meets their unique needs, they can achieve long-term recovery and experience improved quality of life.
Signs & Symptoms of Autism Spectrum Disorder
The types of ASD symptoms a person experiences can vary considerably. The severity of the signs and symptoms of autism spectrum disorder may also differ widely from person to person.
Common signs and symptoms of autism spectrum disorder may include:
- Difficulty participating in typical back-and-forth conversation
- Limited ability to share interests or emotions
- Failure to recognize, interpret, or respond to social cues
- Apparent disinterest in forming friendships or interacting with peers
- Improper use of gestures, eye contact, or body language
- Lack of facial expressiveness
- Experiencing considerable distress due to minor changes
- Rigid thinking patterns
- Ritualistic behaviors, such as needing to eat the same food or follow the same route every day
- Profound adverse responses to certain textures or sounds
- Being fascinated by lights or certain movements
To meet the criteria for a diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder as established in the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), ASD symptoms must be severe enough to impair a person’s ability to function in one or more important areas of life.
The typical onset of ASD symptoms occurs during early childhood, though the signs and symptoms of autism spectrum disorder may not become apparent until a person is much older.
Autism Spectrum Disorder Causes & Risk Factors
Experts have not identified a sole, definitive cause of autism spectrum disorder. But they have noted several risk factors that can increase a person’s likelihood of developing ASD.
Potential causes of and risk factors for autism spectrum disorder include:
- Being born to parents of advanced age
- Low birth weight
- Fetal exposure to the medication sodium valproate
- Alterations of DNA sequences within certain genes
- Gender (autism spectrum disorder diagnoses are far more common among boys and men than among girls and women)
Autism Spectrum Disorder Statistics
The following statistics about autism spectrum disorder and addiction were reported by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and a 2019 study that was published in the peer-reviewed journal Substance Abuse: Research and Treatment:
- More than 5.4 million adults, or about 2.2% of the U.S. population age 18 and older, have autism spectrum disorder. (CDC)
- Autism spectrum disorder occurs in about 3.6% of adult men and about 0.9% of adult women. (CDC)
- Multiple studies indicate that the prevalence of substance use disorders among people who have autism spectrum disorder may range from 0.7% to 36%. (Substance Abuse: Research and Treatment)
Potential Effects of Autism Spectrum Disorder
As is the case with the signs and symptoms of ASD, the effects of autism spectrum disorder can vary considerably from person to person. Depending on a variety of individual factors, the potential effects of autism spectrum disorder may include:
- Health concerns related to poor eating, sleeping, and self-care habits
- Substandard performance in school
- Difficulty finding and keeping a job
- Decreased likelihood of establishing an independent lifestyle
- Increased risk of certain other mental health concerns
- Increased risk of being abused or exploited
- Elevated stress levels
- Social isolation
When a person who has autism spectrum disorder also develops a substance use disorder, the risk to their physical, emotional, and social well-being can increase significantly. However, when a person who has autism spectrum disorder receives appropriate professional care for addiction within a safe and supportive treatment environment, they can make sustained progress toward improved health and long-term recovery.
Therapies Used in Treatment for Autism Spectrum Disorder & Addiction
At Wellness Resource Center, each client follows a personalized treatment plan. Depending on various individual factors, a client who is suffering from autism spectrum disorder and addiction may take part in the following therapies and services:
- Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)
- Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT)
- Motivational interviewing
- Medication management services
- Individual, group, and family therapies
- Multiple types of experiential therapy
- 12-Step education and support
Each person who receives care for autism spectrum disorder and a substance use disorder at Wellness Resource Center receives a detailed discharge plan prior to their transition out of our care. The discharge planning process, which begins the day a person enters treatment, may include the client, their family members, the referring professional, and members of the client’s treatment team.
The goal of our detailed discharge planning process is to ensure that each person is connected with the resources and support services that will help them maintain and build on the progress they make at Wellness Resource Center.
Reasons to Choose Our Treatment Center for Autism Spectrum Disorder & Addiction
When you’re trying to make a decision about treatment for autism spectrum disorder and addiction, it’s important to identify the center that offers the services and levels of care you need in an environment that’s right for you.
The following are among the many reasons why Wellness Resource Center may be the perfect place for you:
- Safe, supportive, welcoming, and inclusive environment
- Opportunity to work in active collaboration with a team of compassionate professionals
- Multiple levels of care, including a partial hospitalization program (PHP) and an intensive outpatient program (IOP)
- Supportive housing with staff supervision to reinforce principles of recovery and promote healthy participation in activities of daily living (ADLs)
- Increased opportunities for independence as you progress through our program
- Vibrant alumni community that can serve as a source of continued support