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Borderline Intellectual Functioning, Alcohol Abuse, and Treatment Considerations

  • anonymous Asks ...

    My son has borderline intellectual capacity. He has an IQ of about 70. He is 25 now and he is living independently with some financial support from us and he is working as a bagger at a local supermarket. He has started to get a taste for alcohol, which is something he never really had when living at home. His employer is a personal friend of the family and he called me yesterday to say that my son is starting to show up for work obviously hungover and smelling of alcohol. He notified us as a courtesy and he was very apologetic when he said that unless things changed for the better that he would have to let my son go.

    I can see this spiraling out of control unless we get ahead of it. I have tried talking to my son but I don’t think he gets the severity of the situation. Is there some sort of program we could get him into for people that are at risk of alcohol problems with diminished intellectual capacity? I am sure his boss would agree to give him a leave for a couple of weeks so he could go and get some help if that’s what would be best.

  • Delisted Expert Says ...

    Your proactive stance with your son’s probable substance abuse is a wise and prudent course. Substance use, abuse and dependency are on a continuum and your son’s use of alcohol cannot be accurately determined without an assessment by a substance abuse counselor. Researching this issue, I was able to indentify one treatment center which specializes in treating substance abuse individuals who have IQs as lower as 50. I feel certain that if you contact this program, Cottonwood Treatment Center, in Salt Lake City, Utah, they can discuss all of your son’s treatment options and the best place for him to participate in treatment.

    Another article, from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMSA), discusses the treatment challenges and treatment options for persons who are developmentally delayed and have a substance abuse problem. When considering options for your son, please read this SAMHSA article.

    Another excellent resource that you might consider for an appropriate substance abuse assessment and/or treatment in your state can be found at this website.

    Another option would be to contact the Substance Abuse Department of your state’s Mental Health Division. The staff, at this division, are usually informed of most programs in your state and can recommend programs which might better serve your son and your family; if it turns out that he is abusing alcohol.

    Lastly, your best bet would be to talk to your son and express your concern about his recent alcohol use and your desire to have this condition assessed by a substance abuse professional. A local substance abuse professional can access all of the available resources in your area for people who are developmentally delayed or borderline intellectually functioning with alcohol abuse problems.

    I hope this information will give you the direction that you may need to assist your son at this time. If you need anything else from me, please do not hesitate to contact me.


    John W. O’Neal, Ed.S., MSW, MA, LPC, NCC

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