It is National Addictions Awareness Week. In celebration, we wanted to share a little bit about a project we are working on to improve substance use treatment in individuals with FASD.

Substance use and individuals with fetal alcohol spectrum disorder

Based on previous research, we know substance use in individuals with FASD is high. Data from the National FASD Database shows that nearly half of individuals with FASD are using substances, alcohol and cannabis being the most common. One study reported that 38% of people with FASD were misusing alcohol and 46% other substances.

In 2016, we hosted a workshop called Learning TogetherThis workshop brought together individuals with FASD, caregivers, and researchers for a two-day discussion around FASD research in Canada. Among the many issues that arose, attendees identified high dropout rates from addiction treatment programs and cannabis use as major concerns.

Treating individuals with FASD who use substances

FASD is a lifelong disability impacting both the brain and body of people who were exposed to alcohol during fetal development. Because of the brain-based differences that individuals with FASD experience, they often don’t succeed in traditional substance use treatment programs.

However, everyone is capable of change and growth. It is not a question of whether or not someone with FASD will benefit from substance use treatment. The question is how can we support success for individuals with FASD in treatment programs?

To achieve this, we have to consider how we can adapt treatment and provide FASD-informed supports and services that encourage healthy outcomes. Research has shown that this population can and does succeed in treatment when it is modified appropriately. These modifications can lead to improved attitudes for caregivers and reduced stress of families, caregivers, and providers.

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