Problem drinking and smoking may be overlooked among persons with ID

Christos Kouimtsidis, PhD
iHEAR Partnership, United Kingdom

Research suggests that community dwelling individuals with intellectual disabilities (ID) face the same risks for alcohol use as the rest of the population. This study sought to examine prevalence rates of alcohol use disorders among persons with ID (in London) known to a psychiatric community specialist team. Further, appropriate screening tools and relationships between alcohol use disorders (AUD) and mental health comorbidities were explored.

What did you do in your research?
Interviews were conducted with 40 individuals with ID (30 males; ages 22-60 years). Information was collected about demographic details, social history, health status (e.g. body mass index band, prescribed medications, smoking status), long-term health conditions (e.g. physical and mental health) and current alcohol consumption.

What did you find out?
The prevalence of AUD was between 20-22.5% in this study. However, none of the participants with AUD had such diagnosis in their medical record. It is important for medical records to not only identify ID but mental health and substance abuse information as well. It was also found that 35% of the sample were smokers (though more individuals with asthma tended to be current smokers), 25% of the sample was overweight, and that 35% of the sample was in poor health, reporting a diagnosis of three or more health conditions. Furthermore, 52.5% of respondents mentioned they had experienced mental illness at some point in their lives.

What are the take-home messages?
This study supports other concerns that problem drinking along with smoking may be overlooked among persons with ID because it does not conform to stereotypes. This is important as chronic alcohol use and misuse can lead to complications and exacerbate certain existing conditions which are already more prevalent among persons with ID. More research is needed around etiology, screening and treatment of substance misuse among individuals with ID. The authors are currently involved in a feasibility study testing extended brief interventions for the ID population.

To learn more about these findings contact Christos Kouimtsidis and/or visit the Project Website.

Full Journal Article
Pezzoni, V., & Kouimtsidis, C. (2015). Screening for alcohol misuse within people attending a psychiatric intellectual disability community service. Journal of Intellectual Disability Research, 59(4), 353–359.