Listening to people with intellectual disabilities who misuse alcohol and drugs

L. Taggart, D. McLaughlin, B. Quinn, C. McFarlane

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

46 Citations (Scopus)


There is a dearth of research that has explored alcohol/drug use and misuseby people with intellectual disabilities. The aims of the present study weretwofold: (1) to examine the insights of 10 people with intellectual disabilitiesinto the reasons why they may misuse alcohol or drugs, and what impactthis behaviour may have on them; and (2) to explore the services that theyreceive. Ten individuals with intellectual disabilities who were deemed to bemisusing alcohol/drugs were purposively selected and interviewed.One overarching theme of the reasons for such misuse was labelled as‘self-medicating against life’s negative experiences’. This was divided intotwo sub-themes: ‘psychological trauma’ and ‘social distance from thecommunity’. All the participants reported that their main source of supportcame from intellectual disability services, acting in both educational andliaison roles. Although seven of the individuals were referred to mainstreamaddiction services, they perceived this service as negative. In order toaddress these underlying problems, better access to a wider range ofspecialist services is required. Intellectual disability and mainstreamaddiction service providers also need to be more effective in the preventionand treatment of substance misuse by employing techniques such asmotivational interviewing.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)360-368
Number of pages9
JournalHealth and Social Care in the Community
Issue number4
Early online date7 Feb 2007
Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - 31 Jul 2007


  • alcohol/drug misuse
  • intellectual disability
  • motivational interviewing
  • service user voice


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