Substance use and misuse in persons with intellectual disabilities (ID): results of a survey in ID and addiction services in Flanders

Res Dev Disabil. 2014 Jan;35(1):1-9. doi: 10.1016/j.ridd.2013.10.015. Epub 2013 Nov 8.


Little is known about the characteristics of substance users with intellectual disabilities (ID). Nevertheless, this group is assumed to be at greater risk of developing substance misuse problems. This study focuses on substance users and misusers with ID, and investigates whether the two groups differ significantly in terms of the nature and consequences of their substance (mis)use. Information regarding the characteristics of the substance (mis)users, the substances used, the negative consequences of substance (mis)use, and the service use was collected through a questionnaire forwarded to ID and addiction services in Flanders. Caregivers identified 104 substance users and misusers with ID. Overall, few differences were observed between users and misusers. This finding underscores that substance use in persons with ID can have important consequences. Substance misusers, however, were found to have more mood changes, more suicidal ideation/thoughts, and more negative long-term consequences on their health, daily activity, and relationships due to substance misuse. Substance use and misuse were associated with mental health problems and were suggested to be a risk factor for offending behavior. To provide appropriate support for this specific population, an individualized approach is suggested that supports better intersectoral collaboration between services.

Keywords: Addiction services; Identification; Intellectual disability; Intellectual disability services; Substance misuse; Substance use.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Affect / drug effects
  • Aged
  • Alcoholism / epidemiology
  • Behavior, Addictive / epidemiology
  • Belgium / epidemiology
  • Female
  • Health Surveys*
  • Humans
  • Illicit Drugs / adverse effects
  • Illicit Drugs / supply & distribution
  • Intellectual Disability / epidemiology*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Risk Factors
  • Substance Abuse Treatment Centers / statistics & numerical data*
  • Substance-Related Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Young Adult


  • Illicit Drugs