The lifelong effects of prenatal exposure to alcohol and what it costs to us all

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A letter to The Irish Times

Sir, – The cited €3.7 billion fallout (Editorial, March 27th), of absenteeism, crime and related illnesses from alcohol misuse and abuse does not include either the lifelong effects of prenatal exposure to alcohol or the true costs of the ensuing congenital birth defects, the educational, behavioural, cognitive, psychological, social, predisposal to addiction, and, ultimately, psychiatric challenges, all of which take an inestimable personal and societal toll.

This significant but avoidable loading on the exchequer has not yet made it onto the radar in Ireland due to under-recognition of, and failure to report on even the most visibly obvious of the fetal alcohol spectrum conditions, none of which is legally notifiable.

An added complication is that the manifestations of neurological impairment will only become evident as the child develops, and impacts upon what and how the child can learn, retain, adapt and use in school, family, and community domains.

We cannot afford this damage and we cannot afford to persist in failing to warn of it. Our future workforce is only as good as we make it, but many infants start life with the dice already loaded irreversibly against them.

Why, and how have successive Irish governments failed to countenance the phenomenon of fetal alcohol spectrum disorders, and the urgent need to prevent, diagnose, quantify, and to provide condition-appropriate multi-disciplinary treatment and management of those affected?

It augurs ill for us as a nation that our Government continues to bask in such a false climate of gross underestimation, which appears to be not only endurable and tolerable, but, regrettably, acceptable. – Yours, etc,



Fetal Alcohol Spectrum

Disorders Ireland,

Glendale Park, Dublin 12.