Alarming Ontario drinking statistics obligates reappraisal of the impact of alcohol on newborns

Alarming Ontario drinking statistics

The report by Myran et al (2019)1 in CMAJ represents among the most comprehensive account of alcohol abuse in Ontario. It relies on emergency department visits caused by the alcohol use. The results show that from 2003 to 2016, emergency department visits due to alcohol consumption have increased 4.4 times more as compared to an overall increase in visits to emergency. It also identifies a number of demographic features…. Fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD) is a serious neurodevelopmental disorder. It is caused exclusively by prenatal alcohol exposure invariably resulting from maternal drinking. There is no known safe dose of alcohol or safe timing of alcohol exposure during pregnancy2. Most of the defects we see in FASD represent the tip of the iceberg. Diagnosis of FASD is subjective. There is no biological diagnostic test and there is no cure. Given the alarming increase in alcohol consumption (175%) by young women (15 to 24 years) of reproductive age and apparently high incidence of FASD in Ontario (~3%)3, the issue demands a concerted action. (Read more…)

Support crucial as Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder rates climb

Schools work to balance student needs as three per cent of Ontario children, aged seven to nine, have FASD.

Twice as common as Autism Spectrum Disorder and 28 times more common than Down Syndrome, Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder is becoming one of the leading known causes of developmental disability in Canada.

According to the Canada FASD Research Network, roughly three per cent of Ontario children, aged seven to nine, have FASD. A 2018 study by the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health estimates one million Canadians are living with the disorder. (Read more…)

New studies suggest prenatal marijuana may be capable of causing FASD-like impairment

Marijuana and Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD)

Whether alone or combined with alcohol, new studies included in Birth Defects Research just published by the Teratology Society with John Wiley & Sons, suggest marijuana exposure may be capable of triggering morphological and behavioral impairments similar to those seen with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD). The groundbreaking insight is part of a special journal issue of 13-studies looking closer at the biomarkers, mechanisms, and interactions of prenatal alcohol exposure. (See the Overview DOI:10.1002/bdr2.1545).

“It’s incredibly timely and relevant that we address the subject of prenatal alcohol exposure,” said Christina Chambers, PhD, MPH, professor of pediatrics at the University of California, San Diego and co-editor of the special Birth Defects Research issue. Dr. Chambers, a Teratology Society Past President and pioneer in the field of prenatal alcohol research, recently made headlines with her groundbreaking study which suggests FASD may affect up to 5% of children in the U.S., and is far more common than previously thought. “Alcohol is likely the most common teratogenic exposure that occurs in pregnancy.” (Read more….)

Binge-drinking sending more young women to ER, ‘eye-opening’ study finds

Binge-drinking in Ontario

More young people in Ontario — especially young women — are ending up in hospital emergency departments because of excessive alcohol use (binge-drinking), according to a new study from scientists in Ottawa.

The research, published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal on Monday, looked at a total of 765,354 emergency room visits in Ontario due to alcohol use between 2003 and 2016.

Researchers found that emergency department visits due to alcohol increased 86 per cent for women and 53 per cent for men.

“It’s eye-opening,” said Dr. Peter Tanuseputro, a family doctor and scientist at the Ottawa Hospital and the Bruyère Research Institute. (Read more…)

‘You’re not alone’: New program helps foster kids with FASD prepare for life on their own

Helping the transition to adulthood for people with FASD

The Foster Family Coalition of the NWT created the pilot 4Y Program after identifying a gap in services, specifically for young people with FASD who are transitioning out of foster care. That typically happens at 19, though teens can apply for extended services with their foster families until age 23.

“There’s quite a lot of good support in schools when individuals are children or youth, but once they’ve started turning 19 or 20, and then go through their 20s, there’s not really a lot in place,” said Garvey, who is also a program co-ordinator.

She says not all young people with FASD have people they can count on to help them transition out of foster care, and beyond. That’s where the navigator comes in. (Read more…)

Policy Action Paper: Toward a Standard Definition of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder in Canada

Toward a Standard Definition of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD)

Language is a powerful tool which has been used to celebrate people, but also alienate populations of people. Individuals with disabilities have been faced with discrimination and stereotypes that separate them from the rest of society, including individuals with FASD. Using language that highlights the strengths and abilities of the individual, as opposed to only focusing on the challenges they face, allows society to change its perspective on FASD, and remove perceived limitations placed on individuals with FASD.

CanFASD has created a common definition of FASD to be used by Canadian governments, service agencies, and researchers. The standard definition aims to alleviate stigma and improve understanding of FASD, create consistent messaging, and change the societal perspective of FASD toward a strengths-based, whole-body approach.

CanFASD recommends the following definition when writing FASD policy or addressing services to individuals with FASD:

“Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) is a diagnostic term used to describe impacts on the brain and body of individuals prenatally exposed to alcohol. FASD is a lifelong disability. Individuals with FASD will experience some degree of challenges in their daily living, and need support with motor skills, physical health, learning, memory, attention, communication, emotional regulation, and social skills to reach their full potential. Each individual with FASD is unique and has areas of both strengths and challenges.”

Read the full paper here to learn more about the importance of language and how we crafted our definition.

A court for people with FASD ‘a terrific’ idea: Friedberg

   A court for people with FASD?

Picture of Matthew Friedberg, advocate for a court for people with FASDA Manitoba court that specifically caters to people with fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD) is a great idea that could work in Ontario, says Toronto criminal lawyer Matthew Friedberg.

“Any court that’s going to address these issues in a more acute way is a really terrific thing,” Friedberg, partner with Caramanna Friedberg LLP, tells

According to a CBC News story, while it’s not known how many people in Canada have FASD, “Health Canada says it’s the leading known cause of preventable developmental disability in the country … research suggests that up to one-quarter of inmates in federal corrections facilities could have the disorder.”

The special Manitoba court, which sits one day a week, is smaller and quieter than usual courtrooms, the story states, with fewer distractions and visual images “to make sure offenders understand what’s going on.”  (Plus d’infos…)

Toronto Public Health releases report on risks associated with increased access to alcohol

Risks associated with increased access to alcohol.

The Province of Ontario recently announced changes to how alcohol is sold in Ontario. Evidence shows that increasing access to alcohol is associated with increased consumption and potential for alcohol-related harms. Following a request from the Board of Health, Toronto’s Medical Officer of Health has prepared a report for the July 8 Board of Health meeting and this report is now available as part of the meeting’s agenda.

Recent data shows that approximately four in five Ontario adults have consumed alcohol in the past year and the drinking trend in Toronto is similar. The average number of weekly drinks consumed increased from 3.3 in 1996 to 4.9 in 2017. Alcohol consumption patterns in Ontario are changing, especially among women, who are consuming nearly 90 per cent more alcohol today than two decades ago. Men still have higher rates of alcohol consumption, but women are catching up. (Read more…)

Ontario Adding More Mental Health and Addiction Services in Ottawa

Ontario’s mental health and addictions system is disconnected with uneven access to quality services, making it challenging for patients and families to navigate a confusing system and get the services they need. That’s why Ontario’s Government for the People is protecting what matters most by adding mental health and addictions services on the ground in schools, communities and health centres. (Read more…)

Make Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder a Priority for the 2020 Federal Budget

Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) must be a priority for the 2020 Federal Budget!

On June 13th, the House of Commons Standing Committee on Finance posted a news release inviting Canadians to share their input regarding the next federal budget. CanFASD urges you to make a submission in support of the CanFASD Research Network and the work that we do.  FASD is a major public health issue that affects over 1.4 million Canadians – more than autism, cerebral palsy and Down’s Syndrome combined.  Canada needs to do better on all fronts – awareness, prevention, diagnosis and interventions and supports.  Take this opportunity to let the Government know that Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) must be a priority for the 2020 Federal Budget.

You can find the link for submissions here. The deadline for submissions is Friday August 2nd at 11:59pm EST.