The Loop - e-news

National Organisation for Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders Australia.
[ Issue #18, February 2015 ]

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Dear Members & Supporters,
This month in “The Loop”
Early in February, the new NOFASD Australia board and all staff had a face-to-face meeting in Adelaide.  It was fantastic to put names to faces and, more importantly, discuss the organisation's next steps in supporting those in our community.

Along with the establishment of a Parent Advisory Group, there was discussion around the importance of having our database up-to-date (an ongoing process) and prioritising and maintaining partnerships and alliances, as well as the requirement of a "plain English" position statement.

If you signed up to the NOFASD Australia newsletter before October 2014, we may not have all the information we now request from our subscribers.  We would like to utilise the information we have not only for demographic coverage purposes, but for providing situation-specific information from time to time, i.e. resources for parents/carers, or the latest research  and recommendations to doctors and other medical professionals.  Your information will never been sold or passed on to a third-party.
Please assist us by resubscribing and completing all the requested information, and thank you for your ongoing support.

Our community poll question this month is: No alcohol in pregnancy is the wisest choice. Would this be the advice for partners too?  Submit your answer here. 

If you haven't already, please 'Like' us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, and invite your friends, family, and colleagues to join the NOFASD Australia community.

Until next time,

Terri Baran
Social Media & Administration Officer

NOFASD Australia does not necessarily agree with opinions expressed in the articles below.  They are provided for interest purposes only.
From My Desk...
There is lots to cover this month. I am writing FMD this month from Toronto, Canada where I have visited FASD advocates, educators and consultants. I met with Bonnie Buxton and Brian Philcox (FASworld), the people who started International FASD Awareness Day. Bonnie wrote the book "Damaged Angels".  Their colleague Linda Rosenbaum has written a book which Bonnie recommends called "Not Exactly As Planned".   With Bonnie and Brian, I also had the privilege of meeting some parents who attend the monthly FASworld support group at the Hospital for Sick Children.  I spent a day with Nancy Hall, Lead Facilitator and Co-ordinator, Southern Network of Specialised Care in Niagara, Haldimand, Norfolk and Brant, Ontario. Nancy specialises in FASD. 

I met with Dianne Labelle, FASworld Niagara, a volunteer support person who educates and trains others in the region. I had a 3 hour lunch with Sheila Burns, a specialist in Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder consulting and training in communities and agencies across Ontario and nationally. Sheila's focus is building capacity within existing systems working toward better responses and outcomes.  She is a past recipient of the Law Foundation of Ontario Community Leadership in Justice Fellowship and developed curriculum and conducted research. Sheila is the past chair of the FASD Ontario Network of Expertise and current Lead of the organization's Justice Working Group.  We covered a range of FASD topics including diagnosis and the need for the inclusion of questions on fetal alcohol exposure at intake.

From what I have heard in Canada, I cannot help but notice similarities between the current Australian experience and what I have learned about the eastern provinces of Canada. Resources are limited particularly for adolescents and adults and in the absence of appropriate levels of funding, support is offered by volunteer parents. Parent distress and sadness is apparent especially for those who watch their older children (including adult children) fall through the system 'cracks'. 

One Canadian spoke about their role as a voluntary supporter.  Rather than continually offering support, I asked what would happen if this voluntary support was declined and if parent/s were asked instead to advise government that their support need cannot be met due to a lack of funding and other resources. The answer was an emphatic "nothing!"  This is timely 'food for thought' as NOFASD Australia moves to establish a Parent Advisory Group with the aim of more efficiently and effectively consult, advocate and offer support across Australia. An inquiry which came to my desk recently provides the evidence of need to advocate. A suggestion was made that the caller try referring her young adult client to an acquired brain injury service. She was told by the organisation that a diagnosis is needed to accept a referral and so, the organisation could not be of any assistance. Another neuropsychological assessment service was tried by the caller who advised that at least the young adult client's needs would be considered at a team level. As follow-up, the neuropsychological assessment service contacted the caller to advise that even if they could diagnose, there is no definitive evidence of the young adult client's birth mother drinking in pregnancy. The service told the caller they are doubtful there are any services available anyway. 

So, my learning from this caller's experience is that we make a request for a neurodevelopmental assessment or for a suspected acquired brain injury and not mention anything to do with the risk of fetal alcohol exposure is somewhat validated. I am reminded of the words of Dr Barry Stanley who answers the question of why people seek a FASD diagnosis. He says it is because individuals or parents are not satisfied that the diagnoses previously made provide a cause. Parents tell us all the time that the possibility of fetal alcohol exposure is minimised or the service they make contact with do not assess for FASDs. Many individuals already have other diagnoses because there are often similar symptoms and similar treatment options. Some parents are told "there is no point in making the diagnosis because nothing can be done about it".  So, desperately trying to find impartial professional assessment is frustrating and challenging. We know the earlier the diagnosis is made, the "better the child does" writes Dr Stanley.  

Regardless of the individual's age, Dr Stanley argues that attitude towards FASD is contrary to professional tradition and in fact is not applied to other conditions for which we seek help. He suggests asking the following questions: (1) "what are the other conditions that cause the same problems as FASD?"; (2) would the professional/medical practitioner respond in the same way if asked to assess for these other conditions?; or most importantly (3) if there is no point in making the diagnosis of FASD, what is the point in making the other diagnoses?  

Individuals living with undiagnosed FASDs need champions now, people brave enough to embrace fetal alcohol in their understanding of the brain and brain difference. Fetal alcohol may well be the cause of FASD but should never be the explanation (read 'excuse') to deny people help. One simple starter step in gathering client intake information (background history) is to include one more question: "Is there evidence of pre-birth exposure to alcohol?"  

Real champions are welcome to contact me anytime.

CEO, NOFASD Australia
Of Special Interest
The Preventable Disability - NT report
Foetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD) is doing untold harm to children in the Northern Territory; harm that will stay with them throughout their lives. Not only does this harm deny those children the life and opportunities they otherwise would have had, but it also puts an immeasurable burden on their families, carers and community. The special needs of FASD children increase the need for health services and require additional resources at school. The cognitive impairments of some FASD sufferers can cause antisocial behaviour and deny the person the capacity for independent living or employment. This can also cost the community with an increase in crime, and the challenge of justly managing individuals who do not understand the consequences of their actions. This harm done to children, their families, and the community is preventable. FASD has a single cause: the consumption of alcohol while pregnant. The incidence of FASD can be reduced by decreased alcohol consumption of women who are or may become pregnant. This can be achieved by targeted education and support for women of or nearing childbearing age. It can also be achieved by reducing the risky consumption of alcohol throughout the population. Awareness of sexual health and contraception also plays an important role in helping women avoid unwanted pregnancies and avoid alcohol when there is a risk of being pregnant.  Read more...

Close the Gap: Progress and priorities report 2015
This report, released annually, presents the Close the Gap Campaign Steering Committee’s assessment of the Australian Government’s progress towards achieving Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander (A&TSI) health equality under the Closing the gap strategy.
Key recommendations from the report include: 
  • The National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health measures survey findings are used to better target chronic conditions in the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population
  • The Australian Government continues to lead the COAG Closing the gap strategy
  • The Australian Government restores the National Indigenous Drug and Alcohol Committee.

Closing the Prison Gap
Australia is now on the Human Rights Watch list, not least because Indigenous Australians are incarcerated at an extraordinary rate, a far higher rate than African Americans.  They are also much poorer and less healthy than non-Indigenous Australians.  The Close the Gap program, which focuses on health, has not been particularly successful.  Economic inequality is the bottom line; high levels of stress, substance abuse as self-medication, and then the disabilities which result from such conditions such as fetal alcohol spectrum disorder, posttraumatic stress disorder, and depression.  Read more... 
National & NZ News and Media
Women aged 35 to 59 engaged in high-risk drinking at problem levels, study warns
More than 500,000 middle-aged Australian women are engaging in high-risk drinking and there is insufficient help available, researchers have warned.  Dubbed the "sandwich generation", researchers described a cohort of women aged 35 to 59 drowning under the pressures of teenage children, ageing parents, work responsibilities and demanding partners.  Read more... 

Fitzroy Valley praised for response to scourge of foetal alcohol syndrome
A remote community in Western Australia with shocking levels of foetal alcohol syndrome has been praised for its response to the condition.Dr James Fitzpatrick, a paediatrician who has been working in the Fitzroy Valley since 2008 and lead author on the study, said the community should be commended for exposing the issue.  Read more... 

Report finds current system fails people with disabilities
The 2015 Report on Government Services was released this week and it shows just how few eligible people have been able to access the support they needed through the current disability support system.  The report shows that in 2012-2013, less than ten per cent of all eligible people received accommodation support, community access or employment support.  Only one quarter received community support and only 16 per cent of carers were able to use respite services.  Read more... 

Time to put the brakes on harmful booze consumption
The National Alliance for Action on Alcohol recently bestowed on the federal government the dubious honour of performing worst among all Australian governments in tackling alcohol problems with the "Fizzers" award.  [It appears] Our political leaders agree that we have a national alcohol problem.  We know that some ministers and politicians from all parties understand the need for action.  So why do governments fail to act? The only conclusions one can reach are that lobbying from the alcohol industry trumps health, police and community concerns, and that ministers who want to act are trumped by political hardheads. Read more...   

NSW election: Jillian Skinner and Walt Secord face off in public health debate
For a debate that was supposed to be about preventative health, there sure was a lot of talk about hospitals. Yet the event also brought out some interesting announcements – particularly in the area of alcohol policy.  NSW health minister Jillian Skinner promised to fund a foetal alcohol disorders specialist unit currently being piloted at Westmead Hospital.  This will likely put the state on the path to becoming a national leader in treating the terrible condition, which causes permanent damage and disability to children before they are even born.  Read more... 
Fetal Alcohol Syndrome and Law Enforcement
The City of Lakeville has released a video regarding FAS and Law Enforcement.  Discover more about FASD including how it happens, who is affected and what law enforcement does to try and give a measured response to those individuals who encounter police.

Lifting the Lid on Drug and Alcohol Use and Abuse
Why do people drink alcohol or take drugs?  Why do some people do it to the point of it being a problem – to themselves, to their family, their friends and to our whole society?  Why don’t people with drug or alcohol problems do something about it, pull themselves into line?  How can we help them?  The aim of this website is to consider such concerns and to ‘lift the lid’ and look inside the minds of people who drink or use other drugs, to see what might be going on in there, what influences them to do what they do, and – if their habit is causing problems and when they are ready – what might get them started on the path towards doing something about it.  Read more...

FASD and the Justice System
While primarily Canadian-based, this website has been designed for justice system professionals and others who want to understand more about FASD.  It provides information and resources about FASD, including background information, case law, legal resources and strategies for effective intervention, most of which would translate to the Australian legal landscape.  Read more... 

Kids’ Quest on Disability and Health: Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders Quest
A child-friendly explanation of FASDs.  Includes questions, book and movie recommendations, and curriculum for teachers.  Read more...

FASDForever – Fetal Alcohol: You’ve got to fight... for your rights!
Dr. Gordon Atherley provides information which is trustworthy, understandable and useful, empowering family caregivers by amplifying their voice, spreading their vision, and publicising their value.  He talks to Jeff Noble about caregivers human rights.  Read more...

13 difficult things about parenting my kids with FASD
A personal account from a mother of five, two of which have special needs.  An insight to some of the difficulties of parenting children with FASD, and provides some understanding as to the way children with FASD think and process information.  Read more... 
International News and Media
'No alcohol in early pregnancy' call [UK]
Women trying for a baby and those in the first three months of pregnancy should not drink any alcohol, updated UK guidelines say.  The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) had previously said a couple of glasses of wine a week was acceptable.  It now says abstinence is the only way to be certain that the baby is not harmed.  Read more... 

Guidance cautions against drinking alcohol while trying to conceive [UK]
Midwives and nurses are being encouraged to have frank discussions with pregnant women about alcohol consumption, following the publication of updated patient guidance.  The revised guidelines, launched by the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists today, advise women not to drink any alcohol while trying to conceive or in the first three months of pregnancy – a stance supported by the Royal College of Midwives. While the guidance states drinking small amounts of alcohol after the first trimester does not appear to be harmful, it makes it clear that the safest policy is to abstain altogether. Read more... 

Moderate Drinking Confers Little to No Health Benefit for Most People: Study [USA]
Moderate consumption of alcohol confers little to no health benefit for most people, a new analysis of almost 53,000 adults finds. The researchers said previous studies that found light alcohol consumption could benefit health were flawed.  Earlier research found light drinking may help protect against early illness and death. Studies found people who have fewer than two drinks daily live longer than those who drink more, or those who don’t drink at all.  Read more...

Effort to warn women about alcohol during pregnancy [USA]
A media campaign is set to launch in March that is aimed at reducing the number of children born with fetal alcohol spectrum disorders in Alaska.  A study also is panned that is expected to involve signs and pregnancy-test dispensers in bars, to test their effectiveness in raising awareness about the potential implications of drinking while pregnant.  Read more...  

Charity calls for changes on labelling of alcohol [UK]
Fife Alcohol Support Service (FASS) is calling for the government to introduce better, more informative labelling of alcoholic drinks.  Under EU legislation, food and soft drinks packaging must show ingredients and nutritional information but alcohol is exempt from these regulations.  Research by the Alcohol Health Alliance UK (AHA) has shown the majority of the British public supports more nutritional and health information on alcohol product labels, in addition to a warning not to drink when pregnant.  Read more...

Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Underdiagnosed in Children [USA]
Fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS) is widely underdiagnosed in young children, preventing them from receiving crucial support services early in life, a new study finds. Deborah J. Fox, MPH, from New York State's Bureau of Environmental and Occupational Epidemiology, Albany, and colleagues assessed a period prevalence of FAS among children aged 7 to 9 years in Arizona, Colorado, and 9 counties in western New York. They report their findings in the January 30 issue of the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. Read more... 

Epigenetics and Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders [USA]
Alcohol consumption during any stage of pregnancy has been shown to result in a range of congenital and cognitive defects, collectively known as fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD).  Alcohol (EtOH) consumed by the mother is readily able to cross the placenta where it remains trapped in the amniotic fluid resulting in prolonged exposure to the fetus, even after the mothers' blood alcohol level has dropped.  Read more... 

Many Pregnant Teens Use Alcohol and Drugs, Study Finds [USA]
New research from the University of Texas at Austin suggests that many teenagers, especially younger teens, may not be getting the message about the risks of using alcohol and other drugs during pregnancy – but that having involved parents and being engaged academically can help.  The study, led by Assistant Professor Christopher Salas-Wright at UT Austin's School of Social Work and published in the Spring 2015 issue of Addictive Behaviours, examines the relationship between substance use and teen pregnancy using a large, nationally representative sample.  Read more... 

When Pregnant Women Drink: The families living with FASD [UK]
An ITV documentary investigating the impact of drinking alcohol in pregnancy exposes the challenges families face when a child develops Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder. Here are the stories of three women whose lives have been affected by the disorder. Read more...  

Stephen DeJoseph on Living with FASD [USA]
Stephen DeJoseph gives a personal, moving insight account of living with FASD.  Watch now...  

Lawmakers take aim at state's fetal alcohol syndrome problem [USA]
For decades we've heard warnings for women about drinking alcohol while pregnant. Nonetheless, there’s still an incredible number of children born in Minnesota with disabling alcohol exposure. Lawmakers want to do something about that by expanding a father successful fetal alcohol program from Olmsted County to other parts of the state.  It costs big bucks to treat children with fetal alcohol disorders, so an expansion of the program could ultimately help taxpayers save money.  Read more... 

"Too Young To Drink" Partners Questionnaire – Preliminary Report [USA]
Fifteen partners belonging to various countries in different continents responded.  In general, respondents recalled positive reaction towards the visual.  The visual was considered well done, very graphic, eye catching, well received, able to get attention, quite innovative, simple, powerful.  The message was considered clear.  One participant was a little worried about the possible reaction of the citizens, who might find it too shocking.  Read more... 
Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) & Wrongful Admissions of Guilt [Canada]
Why would an innocent person plead guilty?  Wrongful convictions happen for many reasons: misleading evidence, unreliable witnesses, biased juries to name a few.  Many of the factors we usually associate with wrongful convictions occur during the trial stage of a case, and ultimately lead a jury or judge to find an accused guilty.  However, events that happen before a case ever goes to trial may also lead to a wrongful conviction. A false admission of guilt is one such example. Read more...

Experts work to keep expectant mothers from drinking [USA]
Most people have heard of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, but it's a disorder that's often misunderstood.  Most children exposed to alcohol in the womb can develop a lesser form of a similar condition that falls under the umbrella of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD).  It's the subject of a recent documentary produced by a world-renowned expert on the subject.  Ira J. Chasnoff, M.D. wants to grab attention by grabbing hearts, using the documentary called "Moment to Moment: Teens Growing Up with FASDs" as a medium to explain the disorders to the general public. Read more...  

NHProviders – March of Dimes New England awards grant for trainings on fetal alcohol spectrum disorders [USA]
The NH Alcohol and other Drug Service Providers Association has been awarded a $10,000 grant from the March of Dimes New England Chapter to conduct trainings for prenatal care providers in an effort to reduce fetal alcohol spectrum disorders.  According to the National Organization on Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (NOFAS), Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD) affects 1 in 100 live births or as many as 40,000 infants each year.  That is more than Spina Bifida, Down Syndrome and Muscular Dystrophy combined.  Read more...  

Foetal alcohol syndrome is not just a Cape problem [South Africa]
South Africa has one of the highest rates of foetal alcohol syndrome in the world.  While most people regard this as a problem unique to the Western Cape, new research shows it is a fact of life in Soweto, Lenasia and Westbury as well.  FAS is not an "all-or-none phenomenon".  There is a spectrum of severity from the full blown syndrome to no defects at all.  The higher the amount of alcohol consumed, the greater the degree of malformation.  The safe limit for alcohol intake during pregnancy is not known. Read more... 

Government of Canada Supports Young Offenders Living with FASD:
Funding to assist youth involved in the criminal justice system who have Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder [Canada]
Today [February 12, 2015], Justice Minister Peter MacKay, along with Member of Parliament for Yukon Ryan Leef, announced $536,658 in funding to the McMan Youth, Family and Community Services Association in Calgary to fund a new FASD Housing Coordinator.  The Housing Coordinator will find community based housing for youth who are involved in the youth criminal justice system and who may be affected by FASD.

Data shows high rate of drug, alcohol use in expectant moms [USA]
About one in 20 expectant women in the United State report heavy alcohol use during their pregnancy, according to the Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder Center. "Since our commencement in 2008, of the 3,000 expectant women we screened, over one-third of them were found positive for drug, alcohol or tobacco use," said CHANCES President Elizabeth Burr. "We have a high rate of substance abuse in utero. This negatively affects these children’s lives."  Read more... 

Finding the good with FASD [USA]
It's important to find the good, explained Mary Katasse, a mother of three children with FASD.  She finds the good in even undesirable behavior because she said her children yearn to do good and will strive to do more good.  Katasse is the mother of five children, three of whom were adopted and exhibit varying degrees of FASDs.  Katasse's family made the decision to take in the children of a relative who was unable to care for them.  Read more...  

'I may look ten but I'm actually fifteen' [UK]
Avril Head from Croydon has said the medical profession do not know enough about the effects of drinking whilst pregnant.  Her adopted son Dominic's "internal organs are all damaged" as a result of Foetal Alcohol Syndrome.  He also has behavioural problems and is "very small for his age".  Avril adds that doctors have been "really hurtful" when they believe that she is his biological mother, but "their whole attitude has changed" when she points out that she is not.  Read more...
‘Neurofeedback’ helping to retrain distracted brains [Canada]
A Surrey non-profit organisation has hired a neurocognitive specialist to work with foster children to evaluate their strengths and weaknesses in order to target resources where they are needed most.  SOS Children's Villiage B.C. will work with Lise DeLong, who has created a process that she says helps people overcome trauma, depression, anxiety and learning disabilities.

Yukon MP Ryan Leef Attends 'Jacob's Story' debut performance in Ottawa [Canada]
Yukon MP Ryan Leef attended the Feb. 18 debut of 'Jacob's Story', addressing the audience about the state of FASD in Canada and the importance of portraying the personal struggles individuals with the disorder face on a daily basis.  Rendered as a play performed by actors from Kingston ON, 'Jacob's Story' follows the life of Jacob, a boy with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD).  The play highlights the challenges Jacob deals with in his life at home, at school, and within the judicial system.  Read more...   
Latest Research
Emotion recognition in children with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders
K.A. Kerns, S. Siklos, L. Baker and U. Müller, Child Neuropsychology: A Journal on Normal and Abnormal Development in Childhood and Adolescence, 23 February 2015, doi:10.1080/09297049.2014.993310
There is a limited amount of research that examines social-emotional functioning in children with FASD, and the majority of it relies on parent and teacher reports of social impairments.  Because these provide broad measures of social function, they fail to elucidate the underlying specific skills with which this group of children has difficulty. The current study examines emotion-recognition abilities in children with FASD (ages 8-14) and age- and gender-matched typically developing controls.  Overall the results show that children with FASD have more difficulties with emotion recognition than typically developing age-matched peers but these difficulties may not be clinically significant (e.g. smaller effect size) or may be specific to the age of the individual exhibiting the emotion.  Read more... 
Eye movements reveal sexually dimorphic deficits in children with fetal alcohol spectrum disorder
A. Paolozza, R. Munn, D.P. Munoz and J.N. Reynolds, Frontiers in Neuroscience, 20 February 2015, doi: 10.3389/fnins.2015.00076
This study examined the accuracy and characteristics of saccadic eye movements in children with fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD) compared with typically developing control children.  Previous studies have found that children with FASD produce saccades that are quantifiably different from controls.  Additionally, animal studies have found sex-based differences for behavioural effects after prenatal alcohol exposure.  Therefore, it was hypothesised that eye movement measures will show sexually dimorphic results.  Read more... 

Prenatal Alcohol Exposure Alters Steady-State and Activated Gene Expression in the Adult Rat Brain
A.A. Lussier, K.A. Stepien, S.M. Neumann, P. Pavlidis, M.S. Kobor and J. Weinberg, Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research, 14 February 2015, doi: 10.1111/acer.12622
Prenatal alcohol exposure (PAE) is associated with alterations in numerous physiological systems, including the stress and immune systems.  The researchers have previously shown that PAE increases the course and severity of arthritis in an adjuvant-induced arthritis (AA) model.  While the molecular mechanisms underlying these effects are not fully known, changes in neural gene expression are emerging as important factors in the etiology of PAE effects.  This study examined brains from adult PAE and control females from the recent AA study to determine whether PAE causes long-term alterations in gene expression and whether these mediate the altered severity and course of arthritis in PAE females.
Ethical and Social Challenges in Newborn Screening for Prenatal Alcohol Exposure
A. Yan, E. Bell and E. Racine, The Canadian Journal of Neurological Sciences, 23 September 2014, doi: 10.1017/S0317167100016413
FASDs are a leading cause of preventable, non-genetic birth defects and intellectual disability in Canada.  Presently, the diagnosis of FASD relies heavily on prior documentation and self-reporting of alcohol use by the biological mother.  Measurement of fatty acid ethyl esters (FAEEs) detected in the meconium of a newborn can indicate prenatal alcohol exposure (PAE).  Despite the potential health benefits and assurance such tests could provide, they also present significant social and ethical questions for stakeholders as well as important legal aspects.  Read more...
Substance use and teen pregnancy in the United States: Evidence from the NSDUH 2002-2012
C. Salas-Wright, M.G. Vaughn, J. Ugalde and J. Todic, Addictive Behaviours, 13 February 2015, doi: 10.1016/j.addbeh.2015.01.039
Few, if any, studies have systematically examined the relationship between substance use and teen pregnancy using population-based samples. This study aimed to provide a comprehensive examination of substance use among pregnant adolescents in the United States. Emploing data from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health between 2002 and 2012, the study examined the prevalence of the past 12-month and the past 30-day substance use and substance use disorders among pregnant and non-pregnant adolescents (ages 12-17).  Pregnant teens were found significantly more likely to have experimented with a variety of substances and meet criteria for alcohol, cannabis, and other illicit drug use disorders.  Pregnant early adolescents (12-14) were significantly more likely and pregnant late adolescents (15-17) were significantly less likely than their non-pregnant counterparts to be current substance users.  Study findings point not only to a relationship between pregnancy and prior substance use, but also suggest substance use continues for many teens during pregnancy.  Read more... 

Changes in the Methylation Status of DAT, SERT, and MeCP2 Gene Promoters in the Blood Cell in Families Exposed to Alcohol During the Periconceptional Period
B-Y. Lee, S-Y. Park, H-M. Ryu, C-Y. Shin, K-N. Ko, J-Y. Han, G. Koren and Y-H. Cho, Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research, 6 February 2015, doi: 10.1111/acer.12635
Alcohol exposure has been shown to cause devastating effects on neurobehavioural development in numerous animal and human studies.  The alteration of DNA methylation levels in gene-specific promoter regions has been investigated in some studies of human alcoholics.  This study was aimed to investigate whether social alcohol consumption during periconceptional period is associated with epigenetic alteration and its generational transmission in the blood cells.  Patterns of alcohol intake in a prospective cohort of 355 pairs of pregnant women and their spouses, who reported alcohol intake during the periconceptional period, were investigated.  The findings suggest that periconceptional alcohol intake may cause epigenetic changes in specific locus of parental and newborn genomes. 

Genetic Absence of nNOS Worsens Fetal Alcohol Effects in Mice.  II: Microencephaly and Neuronal Losses
B. Karacay, J. Mahoney, J. Plume and D.J. Bonthius, Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research, 9 February 2015, doi: 10.1111/acer.12615
Prenatal alcohol exposure can kill developing neurons, leading to microencephaly and mental retardation.  However, not all foetuses are equally vulnerable to alcohol’s neurotoxic effects.  While some foetuses are severely affected and are ultimately diagnosed with FAS, others have no evidence of neuropathology and are behaviourally normal.  The purpose of this study was to determine whether mutation of nNOS (the neuronal nitric oxide synthase gene) can worsen alcohol-induced microencephaly and lead to permanent neuronal deficits.
Upcoming Events

​Remember to visit our events page on our website for a full listing of upcoming events. 

FaithAction Roundtable Discussion on Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder – London, UK
DATE: 17th March 2015
DETAILS: This discussion will bring together interested professionals from the fields of public health, maternal health, social services and education services, as well as voluntary sector and faith organisations.  The aim is to gather intelligence on current activity around FASD and to define some steps need to be taken to improve care for affected families and ultimately to improve public health.  
To attend, please RSVP by Tuesday 10th March 2015 to Sue Griffin call 0845 094 6350.  For more information please click here.  

Narrabri CDAT Regional Alcohol & Other Drugs / Mental Health Conference
26th March 2015
DETAILS: 9.30am - 4.30pm at Crossing Theatre 
This conference will discuss and explore issues around Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder, Secondary Supply of Alcohol to Young People, Cultural Change through Sport, Methamphetamines ("Ice") and Mental Health issues through presentation from keynote speakers and professionals in the field, workshops and Panel Discussions.  For more information and registration, click here. 

2015 FASD Matters Conference: Across The Lifespan – Minnesota, USA
DATE: 19 – 20th November 2015
DETAILS: The 2015 FASD matters conference will provide a forum to network, share information, problem solve, and explore FASD across the life span.  We will explore issues such as: preconception, targeted prevention programs, assessment and diagnostic services, and supports for individuals, families and caregivers. We will investigate how prenatal alcohol exposure and FASD intersect with various systems including education, health care, social services, legal and civil justice, and employment.
The Call for Presentations has been released.  MOFAS is looking for presentations that:
  • Provide new information, ideas and solutions for families, agencies, and systems to implement
  • Share innovative strategies, tools, and best practices
  • Increase the knowledge, skills, and abilities of those living and/or working with someone with an FASD.
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