Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder


Alcohol and drug abuse is neither recent nor is the monopoly of a particular class or race. Opium use, for example, was quite common in high society in Victorian England: Browning, Byron, Dickens, Keats all took opium. My grandfather was a horse veterinarian in the Russia-Japan War of 1900’s. When he came back he was a heroin addict. Probably he had PTSD in today’s terms, exacerbated by easy access to the drug. He failed in everything he tried in civilian life, and remained a proud but bitter man.

At the SACPA on April 19th, Sabrina Hacker confirmed something I had long suspected. She said, “The problem of Fetal Alcoholic Spectrum Disorder (FASD) is much greater than previously thought.” It is not limited to one racial group or a class. When I volunteered in a program for handicapped children, I met children with FASD from white middle class families. However, its omnipresence has been hidden from the public.

The speaker informed us that the tragic consequence of parents’ foolhardiness was ubiquitous. They are called in different names like “attention deficit disorder” or something similar. In Alberta , she said, 40% of pregnancies are reportedly unplanned, and among them as many as 11% may have FASD. Two major risk groups are post-secondary students enjoying newly-found freedom, and those who live in farming communities who go out after hard day’s work where alcohol is often the only entertainment. ( Herald, April 20, p.A4)

Furthermore, racism lets us ignore the problem, and makes us delusional : “Not our problem.” The whole society is in denial consequently exposing all of us to risk. If we need to eradicate a tragedy like FASD, we must get out of the misconception based on racial stereotype and own the problem as our own and educate ourselves. The First Nations acknowledge the problem and are speaking out.

Harm from substance abuse had been around but was ignored. It was only when it became apparent among working class and Chinese immigrants affecting productivity and social order, it became illegal. Still the better-off class gets away free. Attempts to hide the problem as something found only among a certain race or class, and by criminalizing it, expose the general public to danger; such as today’s opioid crisis. We should treat it as a public health issue without stigma attached; like we do with alcohol and tobacco use. Class-ism and Racism harm all of us.

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