Addiction and Autism Spectrum Disorder



At first glance, addictive and autism spectrum disorders (ASD) seem absolutely unrelated. However, in clinical practice this does not appear to be true at all. Many individuals with autism, neurobiological characterized by dopaminergic deregulations, are at high risk for developing addictive behaviors. A prime reason might be to alleviate the high levels of stress and anxiety that they experience in an environment with stimulus overload or in engaging in social situations. The use of substances or repetitive behaviors and bizarre habits may develop rapidly into substance use disorders or behavioral addictions. In some cases the diagnosis of ASD will have be made earlier in life, but parents and workers in the field of autism are often unaware of addiction as a comorbid condition to ASD. Conversely addicted individuals may have an autism spectrum condition that is not recognized, because both relatives and workers in the field of addiction and psychiatry are often unfamiliar with signs of ASD and unaware of the potential comorbidity. Thus the identification of both conditions is a core issue in managing comorbid ASD and addiction. Guidelines for ASD provide useful tools for assessment and guidance for treatment. In relapse prevention interventions, identifying those situations that cause stress and elicit addictive craving and behaviours is crucial. Training skills to learn how to cope, in another ways than by using substances, with these situations are essential within the treatment. In addition, rational pharmacotherapy may prove very helpful.


Autism Spectrum Disorder Autism Spectrum Disorder Relapse Prevention Challenging Behaviour Addictive Behaviour 
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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Addiction and Developmental PsychiatryDimence GGz Zwolle, Center of Experitise Developmental DisordersDeventerThe Netherlands
  2. 2.Clinical Child and AdolescentUMCN NijmegenNijmegenThe Netherlands

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