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Office of Substance Misuse and Addiction Prevention

About Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD)

Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD) is a medical diagnoses which describes the permanent impact caused by alcohol use during pregnancy. No amount of alcohol use is known to be safe for a developing fetus. Alcohol is a teratogen, an agent or factor which causes malformation of an embryo. Most often there are no outward signs to show a person has FASD, but the brain can still be affected. Undiagnosed, the actions of those affected by FASD are often misunderstood, treated as a behavioral disorder and subsequent trauma occurs.

FASD is a Public Health issue. Family members, partners, friends, healthcare providers, community and society all have a responsibility to become aware and understand the impact alcohol plays in pregnancy. Alcohol is the single most widely accepted and used substance in society.

Fetal alcohol spectrum disorders are financially and emotionally costly, life-long disabilities. Individuals, their families and the public as a whole are deeply impacted. According to a recent study, as many as 1 in 20 children in the United States are affected by prenatal alcohol exposure. Many professionals working in the field expect that that number may be twice that in Alaska. Almost twenty years ago, SAHMSA reported that the lifetime cost for one individual with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS) was estimated to be $2 million. It is estimated that the cost to the United States for FAS alone is over $6 billion in direct and indirect costs annually. This cost estimate does not include data on people with other FASDs such as partial fetal alcohol syndrome (pFAS), alcohol-related neurodevelopmental disorder (ARND), and neurobehavioral disorder associated with prenatal alcohol exposure (ND-PAE). In Alaska where prevalence is expected to be much higher than the national average the costs are also much higher.

FASD is a PREVENTABLE disability. To date, most prevention strategies have primarily focused on educating women of reproductive years. Unfortunately, much work still needs to be done to educate health care providers and the general public on the harmful impacts of prenatal alcohol use. Additionally, the large numbers of citizens already impacted by FASD require public attention and supports to live successful lives contributing to society.