Drug and Alcohol Use

Adolescents and adults with FASD may struggle with drug and alcohol problems.Researchers have found that as many as 35% of individuals with FASD, over 12 years of age, have drug and/or (more commonly) alcohol problems.

Although genetics and environment may be a large factor in an individual's use of drugs and/or alcohol, prenatal alcohol exposure has been found to be a stronger predictor of drug and alcohol problems in adulthood than family history. Even when issues such as parental addictions, family situation, and prenatal drug exposure are accounted for, individuals with prenatal alcohol exposure still show higher rates of drug, nicotine, and alcohol abuse.

However, that does not mean that substance abuse is inevitable for this population. Rather, that provision of supports to help individuals develop healthy coping skills, structured environments, and healthy social opportunities is very important. See below for more information about supporting healthy pathways and also addressing challenges as they arise.

Drug and alcohol problems are adverse outcomes of FASD.

Some factors that may contribute to drug and alcohol abuse in those with FASD are impulsivity, the desire to fit in socially (particularly in adolescence), and mental health problems. As mentioned above, genetics and environment can also play a role.

A stable and nurturing home with parental support and healthy relationships can help safeguard against substance use issues. It is important to discuss the impact of drugs and alcohol use with youth in ways they understand. Spending time building alternative skill sets that help prepare individuals to make healthy choices is important for all youth - for those with FASD this process will likely take longer, will need to be ties to concrete examples, and may require applied practice and modeling. Eliminating drug and alcohol use and abuse may help avoid numerous adverse outcomes such as victimization, problems with the law, decrease mental health difficulties,  decreased negative behaviours, and academic or employment issues.


Substance Using Women with FASD and FASD Prevention
A document regarding effective, appropriate substance use treatment approaches and resources for women living with FASD. Service providers’ perspectives on promising approaches in substance use treatment and care for women with FASD (Prepared by Deborah Rutman for the Research Initiatives for Social Change)

Canadian Center on Substance Abuse and Addiction-Substance use During Pregnancy
Canadian national website providing guidance for decision makers using information acquired through research. Findings and guidance relating to pregnant women exposed to alcohol and drugs.

Treating Substance Abuse Among Prenatally Exposed Persons
Video webinar with handouts
presented by Sara Jo Nixon, Ph.D. Looking at traditional treatment for addictions and what works for individuals with FASD (from FASD CMC Alberta)

Talking with Women about Alcohol and Pregnancy Video webinar with handouts
presented by Cristine Urquhart, MSW, RSW. Engaging with women about alcohol use to prevent FASD (from FASD CMC Alberta)

Understanding Substance Use Problems and Addictions in Women as Key to FASD Prevention
Video webinar with handouts
presented by Dr. Nancy Poole. Discussing trends and issues in substance use by women along with prevention, support and treatment approaches and their association with FASD prevention (from FASD CMC Alberta)

Results from the Alberta Pilot of the Treatment Improvement Protocol (TIP) for FASD
Video webinar presented by Carmen Rasmussen, PhD and Katrina Kully-Martens. Presenting on the program that was designed for service providers working in the mental health and substance abuse fields to help identify women at risk of or having a child with FASD and individuals who may have FASD themselves.

Trauma and Addiction
Video webinar presedted by Kirsty Prasad. An overview of substance use and trauma interaction, how trauma symptoms can mimic substance use, and trauma informed principles.

Gender and Addictions
Video webinar presedted by Kirsty Prasad. Presentation on Gender and Addiction and talks about what is unique about women and substance use as well the barriers that women face.

Values and Addictions
Video webinar presedted by Kirsty Prasad. Reflections on our beliefs of women who use substances, gives an overview of myths and facts in order to provide information for practice and gives an introduction to the topic of gender and addiction.


Substance Abuse Treatment Facility Locator (United States)
Locate substance abuse treatment programs by state- provided by Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA)

Alcoholics Anonymous
Alcoholics Anonymous main website