It’s unclear just how many people have fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASDs), mainly because there are complex ways of measuring the data. Some estimates are based on how many people are currently living with FASD while others are related to the exposure of alcohol to the baby during pregnancy. Additionally, it takes several medical professionals to properly diagnose FASD, and not everyone with the disease has been diagnosed.
Because the statistics are obscure, and because this condition isn’t something that is often talked about, many people assume that it’s rare. Unfortunately, the disease is more common that we would like to think. Sometimes, it takes just one story to remind us that FASD is a very real disease that affects everyday people in our communities, not just those in alcohol rehab.
Taylor’s Candid FASD Story
Consider the story of Taylor Allen, a 23-year-old who wasn’t properly diagnosed with FASD until he was in the 8th grade. Taylor and his parents, Mark and Cathy Allen, were recently honored by the National Organization on Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (NOFAS) for their contribution to the FAS community in the Washington DC area.
Before he received his diagnosis, Taylor was told that he had ADHD. The symptoms seemed to fit. Taylor frequently lied, was frustrated in school and remained disconnected from his peers.
When he was in junior high, Taylor brought a pocket knife to school and was suspended. Because of this, he was placed into counseling, and the counselor noticed that Taylor had a gap between action, reaction and consequences. This led to Taylor getting tested, and eventually, his proper diagnosis.
A Diagnosis That Can Change Lives
Taylor’s diagnosis changed his life. Prior to this, he felt misunderstood, frustrated and out of place. Today, he is flourishing. While living with FASD isn’t always easy, the symptoms are better tolerated when there is a reason behind them. “I didn’t know why I did a lot of things I used to do. But with this, I do know why I am doing it,” Taylor says, per the CDC.
Today, Taylor leads a teen group with the help of NOFAS. Taylor says, “We get into how bad it feels to be misunderstood, how we just wish people would understand us. But at the end of the day, no matter how bad, we are all smiles because we’ve got together and met people just like us.”
Why Do Women Drink During Pregnancy?
Taylor’s story reminds us that there are people out there living with FASD that either haven’t been properly diagnosed or don’t have adequate resources to help them. And if there are people living with this condition, that means there are pregnant women drinking. The only way for a person to have FASD is because they were exposed to alcohol in the womb and according to research, an astonishing 1 in 10 women report alcohol use during pregnancy.
Alcohol abuse is a real problem with real consequences. Sometimes it’s hard to know where to draw the line because alcohol is legal and socially acceptable. However, medical professionals recommend complete abstinence from drinking while pregnant because it is unknown how much alcohol can cause FASD.
Each case is unique, though. Some women continue to drink because they have a problem and aren’t seeking help. Others aren’t educated on the dangers of drinking while pregnant. There are also cases where women don’t know they are pregnant and continue to drink.
Seeking Help For Alcohol Abuse
If you or someone you love has an unhealthy relationship with alcohol, treatment may be needed to get back on track with a physically and emotionally healthy lifestyle. People are often under the impression that they need to have their life in chaos before treatment is needed, but this is not the case. Addiction is easier to treat in its earlier stages.
Maryland Recovery offers affordable alcohol rehab for clients dealing with addiction. We have a unique treatment approach that addresses the spiritual, emotional and physical well-being of our clients, all at a more affordable cost. Call us today to learn more about how to make treatment attainable for you or a loved one.
Dr. Bhalavat is Board Certified in General Psychiatry and Addiction Medicine, and provides inpatient evaluation and consultation services at the University of Maryland Upper Chesapeake Medical Center, University of Maryland Harford Memorial Hospital, Maryland Recovery Partners, and Citizens Care & Rehabilitation Center. Dr. Bhalavat’s background includes treatment of depression, anxiety disorders, schizophrenia spectrum disorders, bipolar disorder, substance abuse and dementia.