Asperger’s and Addiction

Asperger syndrome, or Asperger’s, was a previously used diagnosis on the autism spectrum disorder.1,2 It is one of several developmental disorders that was folded into one umbrella diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder by the American Psychiatric Foundation in 2013.1

Those with Asperger’s differ from other types of autism as they have typical to strong verbal language skills and intellectual ability.1,2 It is generally considered to be less severe on the autism spectrum, and many overcome some of the challenges associated with autism.2

Symptoms of Asperger’s

In general, those with Asperger syndrome have restricted interests with distinctive strengths,2 often taking an obsessive interest in a single object or topic to the exclusion of any other.1 They express a desire to know everything about this topic and their conversations with others may be about little else.1

Those with Asperger’s are also commonly characterized by a desire for sameness and difficulty with social interactions.2

Some common challenges or symptoms of Asperger syndrome can (but don’t always) include:1,2

  • Hypersensitivity to light, sound, taste, etc.
  • Social isolation due to lack of social skills and narrow interests.
  • Uncoordinated and clumsy movements, such as riding a bike, catching a ball, or outdoor play.
  • Anxiety and depression.

Asperger’s and Addiction

Substance use and addiction among people with Asperger syndrome do not appear to be more or less common than the general population.3 Very little research has been done on substance abuse risk and Asperger syndrome.4 People with Asperger’s can display less risk-taking or thrill-seeking behaviors. In fact, in a study of adolescents diagnosed with Asperger syndrome it was found that individual personality factors typically associated with Asperger’s, including introversion and inhibition, may act as protective factors to prevent substance use.4

Treatment Options

Interventions and techniques used to treat symptoms of Asperger syndrome can be very effective.1

Autism spectrum disorders persist into adulthood and are lifelong; however, many with Asperger’s are able to work in mainstream jobs although they may need additional encouragement and support to maintain an independent life.1


  1. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. (2019). Asperger Syndrome Information Page.
  2. Autism Speaks. (2019). What is Asperger Syndrome?
  3. Hofvander, B., Delorme, R., Chaste, P., Nydén, A., Wentz, E., Ståhlberg, O., … Leboyer, M. (2009). Psychiatric and psychosocial problems in adults with normal-intelligence autism spectrum disorders. BMC Psychiatry, 9, 35.
  4. Ramos, M., Boada, L., Moreno, C., Llorente, C., Romo, J., & Parellada, M. (2013). Attitude and risk of substance use in adolescents diagnosed with Asperger syndrome. Drug and Alcohol Dependence, 133(2), 535–540.

About The Contributor

Ryan Kelley, NREMT
Ryan Kelley, NREMT

Medical Editor, American Addiction Centers

Ryan Kelley is a nationally registered Emergency Medical Technician and the former managing editor of the Journal of Emergency Medical Services (JEMS). During his time at JEMS, Ryan developed Mobile Integrated Healthcare in Action, a series... Read More

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