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Fetal Alcohol Syndrom

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Fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS) is defined as "a specific pattern of abnormalities in infants born to chronic alcohol mothers" (Jones, Smith, Ulleland, & Streissguth, 1973). The abnormalities that the definition suggests are growth retardation, central nervous system dysfunction, and morphological anomalies such as narrowing of the forehead, thin upper lip, flattened space between upper lip and nose, and flattened bridge of the nose to name a few (Carlson, 1977/2004). "In the western world, fetal alcohol exposure is the most prevalent single cause of intellectual impairment in children" (Clarren, 1986).

The Diagnostic Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition, Text Revision (DSM-IV-TR) does not list criteria for FAS, nor does it consider it a mental illness. Lawrence states that prenatal alcohol impairment, however, also comes in a milder form called fetal alcohol effects (FAE). Children with FAE often don't look disabled, and they tend to score in the low-normal or even normal range of intelligence. But these kids aren't normal. Their mal-developed brains cause them to exhibit a wide range of behavior problems, including hyperactivity, attention problems, learning disorders, and ethical problems such as stealing, lying, and cheating (Carlson, 1977/2004). Psychopathologies associated with the above behavior problems will be present in individuals that are not diagnosed properly as having a fetal alcohol spectrum disorder.

The occurrence of the first FAS baby being born, without a doubt, is untraceable but if alcohol is the number one factor in the cause of FAS, then it may have occurred when the first fermentation of grains or fruit were intentionally processed for consumption. It is thought that some of the first "beverages might have been fermented intentionally as early as the Neolithic period, about 10,000 B.C." (as cited in Goldberg, 2003) (Hanson, 1994). Historical documents about alcohol prolific events, and artwork portraying people from those times, may provide clues to the existence of FAS before it was clinically discovered.

One of the most documented alcohol related fiascos happened before the 1700's in England and was called the "Gin Epidemic" due to London merchants taking advantage of the price of gin falling below the price of beer (Coffey, 1966). There was no photography at the time, but one might be able to find clues in the artwork of the period. It is the author's opinion that obvious facial features and unpopular social behavior attributed behavior connected with FAS can be seen in period artwork. The best examples of art from that period and geographical location which display the facial features and behavior associated with FAS are those painted by Peiter Bruegel (Olga's Gallery, 1997).

The Bible has many warnings about the spiritual and social disadvantages of excess alcohol use, but there is one verse that the author cannot ignore as far as its possible connection to FAS. "But he said to me, "You will conceive and give birth to a son. Now then, drink no wine or other fermented drink and do not eat anything unclean, because the boy will be a Nazirite of God until the day of his death"(Judges 13:7). The unborn son became the man known as Sampson; and Judges is thought to have been written around 1000 B.C. It is not the intended that the reader to take any concrete information from this passage; although it is an interesting coincidence that has to do with the topic at hand.

Since studies suggest that stress alone can cause defects in fetal brain development, how much can an expecting mother drink without worry? One study by the Royal Collage of Obstetricians and Gynecologists studied a group of 400,000 women who drank alcoholic beverages during pregnancy. Not one of the babies born had FAS and the average weekly drink consumption was an impressive 8.5 (Wilkie, 1997). Another study, this time an analysis of seven major research studies that involved around 130,000



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