Alcohol use and people with learning disabilities


Yesterday we posted about a U.S. review which identified the small number of studies on substance abuse and the lack of clear estimates of prevalence. Normally, here at Elf towers, we only identify studies that are reviews of literature, or single studies that report results. But given yesterday’s posting, we thought it might be interesting to point out this article that raises an interesting question about the way in which the scientific literature has framed the whole question of alc0hol use by people with learning disabilities.

In this article, the author points out that all the published studies to date have shown that alcohol use among adults with learning disabilities is significantly less than average. Indeed, abstinence appears not only the norm but practiced by a significant majority.

The author raises the question about why there might be such a differential consumption. He argues that the literature focuses on alcohol use as pathological, and in the context of “a discourse of risk and as a personal behaviour, rather than as a social and cultural one.”

The author asks why there is such a high occurrence of abstinence amongst adults with learning disabilities and considers whether this may be a further indicator of the cultural exclusion of this group.

It would be interesting to hear what you think?

Alcohol and intellectual disability Personal problem or cultural exclusion? Simpson M, in Journal of Intellectual Disabilities, 16, 3, 183-192



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John Northfield

After qualifying as a social worker, John worked in community learning disability teams before getting involved in a number of long-stay hospital closure programmes, working to develop individual plans for people moving into their own homes. He worked for BILD, helping to develop the Quality Network and was editorial lead for the NHS electronic library learning disabilities specialist collection. This led him to found the Learning Disabilities Elf site with Andre Tomlin as a way of making the evidence accessible to practitioners in health and social care. Most recently he has worked as part of Mencap's national quality team and also been involved in a number of national website developments, including the General Medical Council's learning disabilities site.

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