Substance use and addictions in FASD


Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) is a lifelong disability impacting the brain and body of people prenatally exposed to alcohol. FASD impacts at least 4% of people and is more common than autism, cerebral palsy, and Down syndrome combined.

People with FASD experience high rates of alcohol and substance use and misuse. One Canadian study found that 38% of people with FASD were using or misusing alcohol and 46% other substances.

However, those affected by FASD have brain-based differences that can make it hard for them to succeed in traditional substance use treatment. These differences can impact language, memory, attention, learning, participation, emotional responses, and adaptive functioning.

Research has shown that a key barrier to addiction treatment success is a lack of knowledge on the part of professionals about FASD and how it impacts treatment.

The Canadian Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder Network (CanFASD) leads the world in FASD response; Aotearoa New Zealand and Australia often follow their lead because of similarities in our demographics (including indigenous communities) and societal attitudes towards alcohol and substances. The resources below are shared with our gratitude.