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About Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD)

Prenatal alcohol exposure can cause permanent birth defects. 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. 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 is doubled in Alaska.

Fetal alcohol spectrum disorders are costly, life-long disabilities. Individuals, their families and the public as a whole are deeply impacted. The lifetime cost for one individual with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS) in 2002 was estimated to be $2 million. This is an average for people with FAS and does not include data on people with other FASD. People with severe problems, such as profound intellectual disability, have much higher costs. It is estimated that the cost to the United States for FAS alone is over $6 billion in direct and indirect costs annually. Once again, the costs are much higher in Alaska where prevalence is expected to be higher than the national average.

Individuals with an FASD are involved with the criminal justice system at an alarming rate. Youth and adults with an FASD have a form of brain damage that may make it difficult for them to stay out of trouble with the law. They do not know how to deal with police, attorneys, judges, social workers, psychiatrists, corrections and probation officers, and others they may encounter.

FASD is a PREVENTABLE disability. To date, most prevention strategies have focused on educating women of reproductive years. Although this is a critical component, evidence informs that FASD programs must be comprehensive and multi-tiered to be effective.