Welch-Carre: Damage is Lifelong for Infants Exposed to Alcohol
Damage is lifelong for infants exposed to alcohol
Thank you for publishing the article titled ” Alcohol still most damaging drug .” (July 26 Broomfield Enterprise)
I think within the context of the recent opiate epidemic we have forgotten that approximately 88,000 people die per year in the United States secondary to alcohol misuse (CDC, 2018). Neonatal abstinence syndrome, a diagnosis given to newborns who are withdrawing from fetal exposure to opiates, occurs in approximately 25,000 newborns per year.
However, PBS recently presented a series about fetal alcohol exposure. It determined that fetal alcohol spectrum disorder occurs more often than we thought. One- to 5-percent of the population has fetal alcohol spectrum disorder. That means that approximately 40,000 to 100,000 infants per year are born prenatally exposed to alcohol.
Fetal alcohol spectrum disorder is caused by the fetus being exposed to alcohol in utero. Fetal alcohol syndrome is often the most severe form of this disorder and individuals with FAS have very specific facial features. The cost of society to treat and take care of individuals with FAS is estimated to be $4 billion per year. If individuals with FASD were added into those estimates the cost would be much higher. FAS and FASD are lifelong diagnoses.
One does not grow out of it. Alcohol exposure for the fetus can have significant implications with regards to cognitive functioning and executive functioning. Some individuals who are diagnosed with FAS/FASD will never be able to live on their own. There is no safe level of alcohol for women to drink while pregnant because there are so many variables that can influence how the alcohol is metabolized and how it impacts the fetus.
Substance use disorder is hard on the individual, family, friends, co-workers, etc. I think it is important to remember that alcohol is a drug that can be abused, and it can be as harmful — or more harmful — than opiates.