Monthly Archives: November 2017

Prevention with Women Living with FASD


Many women who have FASD are able to benefit from tailored support on substance use problems. Audrey McFarlane, Executive Director of Lakeland Centre for FASDin Cold Lake AB recently shared strategies for working on FASD prevention with women who have FASD themselves. One of the LCFASD programs, the 2nd Floor Women’s Recovery Centre, provides residential treatment exclusively to women. She explained how programs can better support women who have FASD.


Because of the possible neuro-behavioural and physical health issues associated with FASD, working with women living with FASD may pose particular challenges for the service provider due to:

  • Limited understanding of how their body works and how or why to use birth control;
  • Limited understanding of how to get housing, money and to keep themselves safe;
  • Physical health issues, such as diabetes, STDs, vision, hearing and dental;
  • Limited ability to envision the future;
  • Inability to link actions to consequences, which makes them more likely to be connected to the justice system and to have many children not in their care with multiple partners.


McFarlane says that these and other challenges mean it often takes longer to see the benefits of supports. Yet, there are a number of strategies that have proven successful.

  • Take a family alcohol history and ask each woman, specifically, if she has a diagnosis of FASD. Woman will tell you if they do, but are often not even asked.
  • Make suggestions in key areas where they can agree or disagree rather than using client-generated approaches.
  • Prioritize building a relationship so that the woman will come back for support as needed. Reframe returning to treatment as a positive, not a negative.
  • Expect to spend more time on basic life skills and necessities. She may not have connection to family or social services. This means treatment needs to be longer.
  • Approaches that work best include solution-focused counselling, physical activities, positive touch, relaxation, and connections that develop a sense of belonging, like volunteering and cultural practices.


Here are a number of resources on trauma-informed and FASD-informed approaches for working with women living with FASD.

FASD Informed

Evaluation of FASD Prevention and FASD Support Programs website

FASD Informed Approach by Mary Mueller, RN, Waterloo Region Public Health and Emergency Services

FASD Informed Practice for Community Based Programs, College of New Caledonia

Working with Women Who May Have FASD Themselves – Webinar View SlidesRecording

Trauma Informed

Pregnancy, Alcohol, and Trauma-informed Practice, The Prevention Conversation

Trauma-informed Approaches to FASD Prevention – Webinar View SlidesRecording

Trauma-Informed Practice Resource List, Centre of Excellence for Women’s Health


For more on this topic, see earlier posts:






Retrieved from

Guest column: How to do holiday parties while pregnant


Amy Hendricks: Retrieved from

It’s hard to believe the holiday season is upon us. We’re decorating, baking cookies, going to holiday parties, shopping in a frenzy for that perfect gift, gathering with family. Maybe squeezing in that “girls night out” where everyone has promised to not exchange gifts, but to just celebrate the season with friendship, great food and drinks. This can be the most wonderful time of the year. But when pregnant or trying to get pregnant, it can be challenging to face the decision about whether to celebrate the season with or without alcohol.

Drinking and pregnancy

Why is this decision so important?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecology, and the American Academy of Pediatricians, “there is no safe amount of alcohol, no safe type of alcohol and no safe time to drink when a woman is pregnant.” And yet, in 2016, the CDC estimated that 3.3 million women in the United States were at risk for having an alcohol-exposed pregnancy.

When a woman drinks so does the developing baby, who lacks the ability to process or metabolize alcohol through their liver or other organs. The baby has the same blood alcohol concentration as the mother. It makes no difference if the alcoholic drink consumed is a beer, glass of wine or a distilled spirit or liquor such as vodka.

Know the risks

Evidence-based research has found that drinking even small amounts of alcohol while pregnant can increase the risk of miscarriage, stillbirth, prematurity or sudden infant death syndrome. In addition, more than 40 years of published research has shown alcohol to be a neurotoxin in utero. This means that alcohol is a toxic substance to the developing baby just like carbon monoxide and lead.

Alcohol can cause the death of developing brain cells, even during the early stages of pregnancy. Most babies negatively affected by alcohol exposure have no apparent physical birth defects. But they can have lifelong behavioural and learning problems that often go undiagnosed or misdiagnosed as autism or attention deficit disorder instead of one of the fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASDs). Current studies estimate that 1 in 20 school-age children may have FASDs.

Going alcohol-free

How do you navigate and embrace an alcohol-free holiday season? Not that we condone stretching the truth, but if you have just found out you are pregnant and aren’t telling anyone yet, you can always pass on alcohol by saying you are the designated driver, that you are taking a medication that can’t be combined with alcohol or that your stomach just isn’t up for it.

Anytime in pregnancy, you can always order mocktails, nonalcoholic beverages or sparkling water with fresh fruit. They can be very festive and help you get your jingle on during this holiday season and throughout your pregnancy.

Learn more

FASDs are preventable. So, if you are pregnant or plan on getting pregnant, please refrain from any alcohol use to ensure the healthiest environment for your baby to grow and develop.

The NC Fetal Alcohol Prevention Program (FASDinNC) strives to prevent alcohol-exposed pregnancies by providing training, education and resources to women of childbearing age and the professionals that serve them. This effort includes dispelling any myths surrounding the safety of drinking alcohol during pregnancy, even light drinking.

Amy Hendricks is the program coordinator for the NC Fetal Alcohol Prevention Program (FASDinNC) at Mission Fullerton Genetics Center. For more information on how you can prevent FASDs and find great mocktail recipes, contact the NC Fetal Alcohol Prevention Program at (828) 213-0035 or go to

More online:

North Carolina Fetal Alcohol Prevention Program,

National Organization on Fetal Alcohol Syndrome,

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,


N.W.T. MLAs call for formal fetal alcohol spectrum disorder strategy, health minister says no need


By Randi Beers, CBC News Posted: Nov 17, 2017 6:00 AM CT

The Yellowknife Association for Community Living began its fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD) awareness campaign on Friday, as some MLAs called on the government to implement a formal strategy to combat the spectrum of disorders in the territory.

The association is delivering pregnancy tests to 12 Yellowknife establishments to dispense in their washrooms.

Lynn Elkin, executive director for the association, wants the campaign to get people thinking about the possibility they might be pregnant while they are out on the town. The pregnancy tests come with information about FASD and a collection of mocktail, or non-alcoholic, drink recipes.

“We know people were using it,” she said about the campaign in previous years. “We did have some phone calls that came where people said, ‘I’m [tested] positive and I was out at the bar last night so what should I be doing?'”

Territory should do more, say 2 MLAs

MLAs Cory Vanthuyne and Julie Green both applaud the work the association is doing. In fact, they both say they’d like to see the territorial government dedicate resources specifically to FASD awareness, prevention and support.

Vanthuyne applauds work done by Health Minister Glen Abernethy as chair of the Canada Northwest FASD partnership, but said there are areas where the government can do better.

He supports a 10-year plan to fight FASD.

“I think it’s something that would get pretty good support from the members of the Legislative Assembly,” Vanthuyne said.

Abernethy says his department is working on a disability action plan, which he says will include those with FASD, and expects to have the plan in MLAs’ hands by Christmas.

But Abernethy added that a dedicated plan to reduce FASD isn’t what the territory needs.

“We have a lot of action plans,” he said. “We need to take action rather than write these things.”

Glen Abernethy June 2016

N.W.T. Health Minister Glen Abernethy says the territory does not need a specific FASD plan. (CBC)

Alberta finishes 10-year strategy to combat FASD

In Alberta, one government official says the province is “leaps and bounds” ahead of where it was 10 years ago in regards to FASD, thanks to an innovative 10-year strategy which wrapped up earlier this year.

Janice Penner, the manager of FASD initiatives with that province’s Department of Community and Social Services, explained why she felt the initiative worked.

“Our approach in working with community was absolutely critical to our success,” she said.

Through the strategy, the government of Alberta has published data that paints a clear picture of the costs of FASD in the province. Approximately 46,000 Albertans live with FASD, costing the government $837 million per year. According to the Institute of Health Economics, the Alberta Government saves $784,000 for each prevented case of FASD.

As part of the strategy, Alberta implemented the Parent Child Assistance Program which partners women vulnerable to alcoholism and addiction to a support worker for a period of three years. Through this program alone, the government estimates it prevented 31 cases of FASD between 2008 and 2011, saving $22 million.

Penner wasn’t able to provide an exact amount the government spent to implement this strategy, but estimated it was $16.5 million per year, with a bit more spent in earlier years.

No FASD research in N.W.T.

According to a department spokesperson, the Department of Health and Social Services has never studied FASD in the N.W.T.

The territorial government has also never attempted to collect prevalence rates either, but refers to national studies that suggest up to four per cent of Canadians live with it. Four per cent of the N.W.T.’s population adds up to approximately 1,760 people.

At Stanton Territorial Hospital, an FASD Community and Family Support Program completes 10 FASD assessments per year. Those 10 patients get support through the program until they are 18 years old. After that, the government refers them to the same support services offered to all residents with disabilities.

N.W.T. residents over the age of 19 can’t get a diagnosis in the territory, and the Department of Health does not offer a way for people in this age group to get a diagnosis in the South.

Elkin said she isn’t sure a multi-million dollar, 10-year strategy would make much of a difference in the territory.

“I think it’s just a matter of supporting people,” she said.

Retrieved from:

CMHA, National Addictions Awareness Week: Words Matter


Recovery Language: A Guide

Here are some ways to avoid using language that stigmatizes substance use and addiction:

  1. Use “people-first language.” For instance, refer to “person who uses substances”, or “person who has a substance use disorder”; and not a “drug user”, “addict” or “alcoholic”. This is more neutral language that helps to maintain the individuality of the person.
  2. Refer to “substance use” rather than “substance abuse”. “Abuse” or “abuse” has been shown to contribute to negative outcomes, and may be more likely to occur.
  3. Choose to recognize that substance use disorders are health disorders. They are not the result of any kind of character flaw or lack of personal willpower. In fact, substance use disorders are the most common mental health disorder.
  4. Choose to refer to “drug poisoning” rather than to “drug overdose” as the latter perpetuates the myth that a person has “brought this on themselves”.
  5. Referring to a “drug suit,” or “drug of choice” implies that the person can simply choose to stop. Refer to “the substance a person is using”.
  6. Choose language that promotes the recovery process. This means not describing a person being “clean” or “dirty” but rather “not currently using substances”. Also, refer to a person who is not using substances, or is reducing use, as being “in recovery”.
  7. Avoid perpetuating negative stereotypes and biases through the use of slang and pejorative names.
  8. The use of non-stigmatizing language also applies when describing a person with other mental health problems and illnesses.


Michael P. Botticelli. Memo: Changing the Language of Addiction, Office of the National Drug Control Policy. 2017.

Lauren M. Broyles, Ingrid A. Binswanger, Jennifer A. Jenkins, Deborah S. Finnell, Babalola Faseru, Alan Cavaiola, Marianne Pugatch & Adam J. Gordon. Confronting Inadvertent Stigma and Pejorative Language in Addiction Scholarship: A Recognition and Response . Abuse Substance  Vol. 35, Iss.3.2014

John F. Kelly, Richard Saitz & Sarah Wakeman. Language, Substance Use Disorders, and Policy: The Need to Reach Consensus on an Addiction-Ary Alcoholism Treatment Quarterly  Vol 34, Iss 1.2016

MG Weiss, J Ramakrishna, & D. Somma. Health-related stigma: Rethinking Concepts and Interventions. Psychol Health Med . 2006; 11: 277-87.

Michael P. Botticelli, & Howard K.Koh. Changing the Language of Addiction. JAMA October 4, 2016 Volume 316, Number 13 .


Retrieved from: 

Is there a relationship between adverse childhood experiences and problem drinking behaviors? Findings from a population-based sample



The study investigated the relationships between adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) and heavy and binge drinking, stratified by gender.

Study design

Population-based cross-sectional study.


Data were retrieved from 2012 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System. Over 39,000 individuals from five states were included in the study. Multiple logistic regression models were used to analyze the weighted data to determine factors associated with heavy and binge drinking for men and women. Each model included ACEs and controlled for sociodemographic variables, depression and smoking status. Bonferroni method was used to correct multiple comparisons.


Only a few relationships between ACEs and problem drinking were observed. Among men, living with a drug abuser as a child was significantly associated with both heavy and binge drinking compared to men who did not reside with a drug abuser as a child. Childhood verbal abuse was linked with men’s binge drinking compared to men who were not verbally abused as children. Among women, none of the nine ACEs examined in the study were associated with their heavy drinking. Only one ACE, verbal abuse, was found to be correlated with binge drinking, compared to women who did not experience childhood verbal abuse. In addition, we did not find the hypothesized, step-wise, graded relationship between the number of ACEs and heavy and binge drinking. However, the risk of heavy drinking was greater if the individual was exposed to four or more childhood adversities among both men and women.


Study hypotheses were only partially supported. Future studies should unpack the interplay among gender, socio-economic status, ACEs, and problem alcohol consumption.

To read more please visit:

Wait times for addictions treatment can mean ‘life and death’ conference hears


By Charles Hamilton, CBC News Posted: Nov 13, 2017 4:12 PM CT Last Updated: Nov 13, 2017 4:12 PM CT

People seeking help for drug and alcohol addictions can sometimes wait weeks to get the treatment they need.

And during that wait, addicts are more at risk, according to experts and advocates attending a conference in Saskatoon.

“It’s those gaps in between treatment that often kills the addict,” said Marie Agioritis, one of the speakers at the event called Perspectives on Use and Recovery at Saskatoon City Hospital on Monday.

Agioritis’s son died of a fentanyl overdose in 2015. Her other son is an addict, currently in recovery. She says one of the most common misconceptions from parents and loved ones is about how easy it is to get someone into proper treatment for their addiction.

“I talk to a lot of parents that go ‘you know what — I catch my kid using and he’s going straight into treatment’ but that’s not the reality,” she said.

“The reality is you can try to get them detoxed and hopefully get a bed but then it’s one to six weeks which is a very vulnerable time for an addict.”

‘Strike while the iron is hot’

Dwayne Cameron, an addictions counsellor in Saskatoon, agrees people struggling with alcohol and drug addiction can be the most at risk while they wait for the proper treatment they need.

He says while the wait to get someone into a brief detox can be short, getting someone into long-term patient care can sometimes take weeks.

Dwayne Cameron

Dwayn Cameron, an addictions worker in Saskatoon, says more timely access to addictions treatment can be a matter of life or death


“We’ve got some great services already, but part of the problem is timely access,” he said.

“When it comes to addictions, there’s a catch phrase we use that you need to strike when the iron is hot.”

Cameron said addicts are the often the most vulnerable when they’ve detoxed and are no longer using.

“We need to have it so there isn’t a wait times because wait times become life and death,” he said.

Agioritis has been outspoken advocate for better addiction services since her son’s death. She hopes by attending conferences and speaking publicly about her son’s story, she can start to break the stigma surrounding addictions.

That way, she believes, the public will start to demand better treatment options.

“We have to have a kinder gentler environment for the addict because most of the people who are dying right now and in fact all of them had someone who loved them and still loves them,” she said.

Retrieved from:

National Addictions Awareness Week: #WordsMatter

Edmonton and area Fetal Alcohol Network Society


Words Matter

November 12 – 18, 2017

Each year, the Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction (CCSA) joins organizations across the country in observing National Addictions Awareness Week (NAAW). Led nationally by CCSA, NAAW highlights issues and solutions to help address alcohol- and other drug-related harm and provides an opportunity for Canadians to learn about prevention, talk about treatment and recovery, and bring forward solutions for change.

This year, NAAW is putting the spotlight on the stigma surrounding substance use disorders — specifically, how stigmatizing language can perpetuate harmful stereotypes and act as a barrier to seeking help and sustaining recovery. The truth is … WORDS MATTER.

Show your support 

CCSA has created some fact sheets and videos, which we invite you to view and share. We also encourage you to follow the conversation at #WordsMatter and #NAAW2017 on Twitter @CCSACanada and @CCDUSCanada to help support the efforts of individuals…

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