FASD Awareness Day

Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS) is the leading known cause of mental retardation in western civilization (NIAAA, Eighth Special Report NIH Publication No. 94-3699; Abel, E.L. & Sokol, R.J. (1987). Incidence of fetal alcohol syndrome and economic impact of FAS-related anomalies. Drug and Alcohol Dependence, 19, 51-70.). Most individuals with alcohol related disorders have normal or above normal intelligence and normal physical appearance. (Streissguth et al, "Understanding the Occurrence of Secondary Disabilities in Clients with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS) and Fetal Alcohol Effects (FAE)," Final Report to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention 1996)

Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD) is a term that includes both FAS and FAE. Studies indicate that FASD may affect one out of one hundred babies in North America, making alcohol the leading cause of brain damage today. (Teratology 1997 Nov;56[5]:317-26)

Children who grow up with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS) or Fetal Alcohol Effects (FAE) are at high risk of serious secondary problems, such as dropping out of school or getting expelled; getting into trouble with the law; abuse of alcohol and other drugs; inappropriate or risky sexual behavior; inability to maintain employment; and mental health issues such as clinical depression. (The Challenge of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome: Overcoming Secondary Disabilities, Ann Streissguth and Jonathan Kanter, 1997, University of Washington Press.)

Based on long-term research of cost and prevalence data in the states of Washington and North Dakota, it is estimated that there are almost 3 million individuals in the United States with FASD, and that care for these individuals costs the U.S. approximately $7.5 billion each year. (Prevalence and Cost Calculator, Larry Burd, Ph.D., Director, North Dakota Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Center, http://www.online-clinic.com/Content/Materials/calculator.asp)

Fetal Alcohol Syndrome was first officially named as a medical disorder in 1973 by researchers from the University of Washington in Seattle. (Recognition of the Fetal Alcohol Syndrome in Early Infancy. Jones, K. L., Smith, D. W., The Lancet, Nov. 3, 1973, pgs. 999-1001.)

The rate of drinking by women of childbearing age, including the riskier practices of frequent and binge drinking, increased dramatically from 1991 to 1995. (US Department of Health and Human Services. Summary of findings from the 1999 National Household Survey on Drug Abuse. Washington, DC: US Department of Health and Human Services, 2000.)

The rates of binge drinking and frequent drinking reported by pregnant women in 1995 remained substantially unchanged by the year 2000. (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention MMWR Weekly April 25, 1997 / 46(16);346-350; MMWR Weekly, April 5, 2002 / 51(13);273-6)

Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders cause permanent damage to the developing brain, resulting in neurological impairment of the executive functions. Affected individuals often have difficulty functioning in everyday life and are not able to implement effective problem-solving strategies. (Journal of Pediatrics, 92(1):64-67; Ann Streissguth, Developmental Neuropsychology 2000; 18(3):331-54; National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism Press Release 301/443-3860, March 20, 2000)

The effects of prenatal exposure to alcohol last a lifetime. There is no safe level of drinking during pregnancy. (Drinking Alcohol During Pregnancy, March of Dimes 2003)

There is no cure, but FASD is 100% preventable (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention 2003).

Prepared by Teresa Kellerman, Cofounder of FASworld FASD Awareness Day
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