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Native American FASD

by James Heller 8. April 2009 13:09
April, 2009 marks the 22nd year of Alcohol Awareness Month.  

Tarzana Treatment Centers is participating with a series of articles meant to inform and educate the general public about alcohol abuse, dependence and treatment.  Considering that over 21 million Americans meet the criteria for alcohol abuse and over 53 million admit to past-month binge drinking, not to mention the many loved ones affected by each, our efforts are worthwhile.

Looking at studies, there is no real consensus over whether genetics plays a part in alcoholism among Native Americans.  While some conclude there is clear evidence that Native Americans metabolize alcohol differently from other races, others say there is none.  So the focus needs to remain on environmental trends that carry the problem of alcoholism among Native Americans from generation to generation.

One problem that is being addressed is alcohol use among pregnant women.  Alcohol’s effects on the fetus manifest into a wide range of physical, emotional, and behavioral problems.  While none of these necessarily predispose a new generation to alcoholism, it is a clear indication of how alcohol use affects new generations of the Native American community.

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration report on Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder Among Native Americans details statistics that show a need to address this problem, and how it can be solved with treatment.

Tarzana Treatment Centers provides alcohol detox and treatment for Native Americans as described below.  Native American traditions and ceremonies, including family members in treatment, and offering parenting classes are all a part of the alcohol and drug treatment we provide for Native Americans.  We also attend Pow Wows to maintain close ties with, and to educate, Native Americans.

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“Fetal alcohol spectrum disorders” (FASD) is an umbrella term describing the range of effects that can occur in an individual whose mother drank alcohol during pregnancy.  These effects may include physical, mental, behavioral, and/or learning disabilities with possible lifelong implications. The term FASD is not used as a clinical diagnosis. It refers to conditions such as fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS), alcohol-related neurodevelopmental disorder (ARND), and alcohol-related birth defects (ARBD). Each year, at least 40,000 babies are born with an FASD, costing the Nation up to $6 billion. The average lifetime cost for one individual with FAS is approximately $1.4 million.

FASD, as well as alcoholism and alcohol abuse, are serious problems in some Native communities.  However, the stereotype of the drunken Indian is misleading. In some tribes, alcohol use is similar to or lower than the general U.S. population. On a typical day, abstinence is common.


Services are greatly needed to address FASD in Native American communities, including prevention efforts and interventions for children and adults with an FASD.

An assessment of 10 tribal reservations and five urban Indian Community Health Centers showed that such services were limited or nonexistent.

Interventions should:
  • Incorporate tribal practices, combining mainstream, evidence-based strategies with traditional elements such as talking circles and ceremonies
  • Address alcohol issues in families to break the cycle of alcohol abuse, since FASD is often a multigenerational problem
  • Incorporate collaborative, holistic approaches both at home and school for people with an FASD, such as training in effective parenting and teaching strategies The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s FASD Center for Excellence is working with tribal leaders to develop culturally appropriate resources, provide training on prevention and intervention, and identify best practices. Building on the cultural strengths of Native American communities can support positive outcomes at all stages, from early intervention for infants to adult support services.

Pregnancy is a sacred time for many Native Americans. Many tribes share the belief that individuals must consider the impact of their decisions on the next seven generations.  Preventing alcohol abuse during pregnancy is a powerful way to protect future generations and ensure that all children have a healthy start, free of FASD.

-- Source: http://download.ncadi.samhsa.gov/Prevline/pdfs/SMA06-4245.pdf --

Tarzana Treatment Centers in Los Angeles makes a daily effort to find treatment news articles that we can share with our readers in the alcohol and drug treatment community.  The external content was found among other articles of equal informational and educational quality.