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Dyslexia and substance use in a University Undergraduate Population

Wilcockson, T.D., Pothos, E. M. & Fawcett, A. J. (2016). Dyslexia and substance use in a University Undergraduate Population. Substance Use and Misuse, 51(1), pp. 15-22. doi: 10.3109/10826084.2015.1073322


Background: A number of cognitive deficits are associated with dyslexia. However, only a limited amount of research has been performed exploring a putative link between dyslexia and substance use. As substance use is thought to involve a cognitive component, it is possible that the pattern of substance use would be different for dyslexic participants, when compared to nondyslexic controls. During the current study, a guiding hypothesis was that people with dyslexia would demonstrate less substance use than nondyslexic controls. Theories of memory activation, automaticity, and attentional bias in substance use suggest that cognitive components of substance use are important in the development and maintenance of continued substance use and it is thought that, at least some of these components, would be impaired in a dyslexic population.

Objectives: If the cognitive deficits displayed by dyslexics somehow impair the development of cognitive components of substance use, substance use for dyslexic participants may be less pronounced. This paper therefore examines this hypothesis by comparing substance use within dyslexic and nondyslexic participants, from an undergraduate population.

Methods: This was an exploratory questionnaire-based study. Dyslexic participants (n = 35) were compared to control participants (n = 62) on a series of questions designed to measure their substance use history.

Results: The results provided preliminary evidence of a difference between dyslexic and nondyslexic substance use. Dyslexics reported a substance use history that was significantly lower than nondyslexic controls.

Conclusions/Importance: These results are interpreted in terms of cognitive deficits within dyslexia and with reference to the cognitive model of substance use.

Publication Type: Article
Additional Information: This is an Accepted Manuscript of an article published by Taylor & Francis in Substance Use and Misuse on 15 Jan 2016, available online:
Publisher Keywords: Dyslexia, substance use, attentional bias, automaticity, memory activation
Subjects: R Medicine > RC Internal medicine
Departments: School of Health & Psychological Sciences > Psychology
Text - Accepted Version
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