Author Archives: edmontonfetalalcoholnetwork

PCAP – Newsletter April 2018

About the Alberta PCAP Council


The Alberta Parent-Child Assistance Program (PCAP) Council evolved from the Targeted & Indicated Prevention Training Sub-Committee reporting to the Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder – Cross-Ministry Committee (FASD-CMC).  Alberta PCAP programs were in need of program-specific supports, and funders such as FASD‑CMC were in need of policy information.

The Parent-Child Assistance Program started as a federally funded research demonstration project developed by Dr Therese Grant at the University of Washington.  The primary goal of PCAP is to prevent future births of alcohol and drug-exposed children. We do this by addressing the needs of mothers and getting them stabilized in a whole host of ways.

Vision Statement

We envision a province where women with substance use issues are well supported in their communities to have healthy pregnancies and healthy families.

Mission Statement

The Alberta PCAP Council will support programs to operate throughout the province in an educated, culturally safe, thoughtful, and efficient manner that is consistent with the Alberta PCAP model.


The PCAP model has been chosen in Alberta to provide services for targeted and indicated prevention of FASD. This Level 3/4 Prevention offers a specialized and holistic support of pregnant women with alcohol and other health/social problems. The purpose of the Council is to assist programs to adhere to this research-based, validated model to promote program fidelity and quality assurance.

For more information about the Council please visit 

Check out their April 2018 newsletter! Just click to download!

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Resource: Women and Cannabis

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This resource was developed through the support of the Education and Training Council, Alberta FASD Cross Ministry Committee and reviewed by experts from the Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse and the Canada FASD Research Network. It was updated September 2017 with new research and uses the scientific name, cannabis, rather than the common name, marijuana.

View English PDF

View French PDF 

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This is a resource for service providers and program planners. The info sheet describes what we know so far about sex- and gender-based factors related to cannabis use.

It is one of several resources developed as part of the Trauma/Gender/Substance Use (TGS) project made possible by funding from Health Canada. The views in this resource do not necessarily represent the views of Health Canada. Revised February 2018.

View English PDF

View French PDF

Teaching Tuesday: Dr. Bruce Perry, Sensitization and Tolerance

Sensitization and Tolerance: An introduction to the crucial role that patterns of stress response system activation play in pathology and healing.

Alcohol Consumption Directly Linked to Breast Cancer in Woman, Age and Quantity Play Major Factors


According to a report from the American Society of Clinical Oncology, the group lists breast cancer as one of the primary types of cancer directly linked to alcohol consumption. Most women have one in eight chances of developing breast cancer during their lifetime. Taking every preventive measure possible is one way to lower your risk, and a good place to start is looking at your booze intake. While at what age a woman starts drinking is just one factor that is associated with breast cancer, how she drinks is also another primary factor.

Any potentially cancerous cells are growing at a fast pace and multiplying, making the young adult years important time for risk reduction. “For a woman’s teenage years to her first pregnancy, her breast cells undergo rapid profiferation,” says Heidi Memmel, MD, a breast surgeon. “Breast cancer risk accumulates across a woman’s lifespan, but the most rapid accumulation occurs around the time a woman has her first period to her first pregnancy.” After pregnancy, a woman’s breast tissue undergoes biologic changes that make the cells more cancer-resistant. This helps explain why women who have children later in life or do not have children at all are at higher risk, says Dr. Memmel.

Dr. Memmel further says there is a significant increase in breast cancer risk associated with alcohol consumption before age 30, especially if the woman began drinking at an early age. While the link between alcohol and breast cancer isn’t completely clear, she says, the prevailing theory is that alcohol affects circulating estrogen and estrogen receptors in the breast tissue. “The products of alcohol metabolism in the body are also thought to potentially play a role in breast tumour cell growth,” says Dr. Memmel. “Alcohol is causally related to the risk of breast cancer, with a seven to 10% increased risk for each drink of alcohol consumed daily,” says Dr. Liu, a researcher and assistant professor at the Washington University School of Medicine.

The age at which a woman begins drinking is only one part of the equation. How she drinks also factors into risk. As defined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, binge drinking is when women have four or more drinks in two hours is problematic. “Women who report seven drinks on the weekend, but no alcoholic drinks during the week have a higher risk than women who have one drink per night”, explains Dr. Memmel “Because much youth alcohol consumption is in the form of binge drinking, many young women are unknowingly putting themselves at higher risk of developing breast cancer.” The CDC reports that one in six adults binge drinks about four times a month.

By Sania Dhirwani

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‘Binge drinking has become completely normalized’: Has boozy mom culture gone too far?


  • By Kate Thayer Chicago Tribune (TNS)

Social media feeds are rife with memes depicting exhausted women guzzling wine in giant glasses, with phrases like, “Technically, you’re not drinking alone if your kids are home.” They refer to wine as “mommy juice” or to the hour of “wine o’clock” — a time that all moms apparently look forward to as a way to get through the stress of raising their children.

From Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, to movies and store shelves, a ubiquitous narrative has taken hold in popular culture: that it’s acceptable, expected and funny for moms to use a glass — or more — of wine to make it through the day. Yet while many women share these images in jest and don’t have a problem, addiction experts and those who have battled addiction themselves say the trend minimizes the dangers of drinking to excess.

“Mommy’s wine has become a pop culture trend, a marketer’s dream and a hashtag,” said Dr. Crystal Tennille Clark, a psychiatrist and assistant professor at Northwestern’s Feinberg School of Medicine who specializes in women’s health. “I do think we’re losing sight of what a problem (drinking) could be. Many people, whether they’re men or women, don’t appreciate the risks of drinking.”

Hollywood perpetuates the storyline, and celebrities embrace it. Trips to the movie theater to see “Bad Moms” and its sequel, which celebrated boozy mom culture, were common “moms night out” gatherings. Gabrielle Union’s recent book of personal essays is titled “We’re Going to Need More Wine,” and Kelly Clarkson hosts an Instagram video series called “Minute and a Glass of Wine.”
Marketers also are capitalizing on the trend, targeting mothers with products like dish towels and home decor featuring similar sayings. There are even brands of wine with “mommy” in their names.
But for those who have battled addiction, pop culture’s fascination with moms and wine is no laughing matter.

Kelley Kitley was a seemingly successful wife and mother of four in Oak Park, Ill., who had her own social work practice and ran marathons.

She also was an alcoholic.

After a childhood growing up above her parents’ bar in Lincoln Park, where she had a front-row seat to others’ excessive drinking, she pledged to never have a problem herself. Over the years, she would give up drinking for long stretches during her pregnancies, for Lent or just to see if she could.

But Kitley’s occasional, social binge drinking eventually turned into a bottle-of-wine-a-day habit.

Click to read full article



Please enjoy an opinion piece from CanFASD Research Network Executive Director, Audrey McFarlane.

Reconciliation. Advancement. Growth. Progress.

These four words are the section titles for this year’s Federal Budget. Finance Minister Bill Morneau gave a rousing speech in the House of Commons to introduce the ambitious, wide-ranging plan. He concluded by saying:

“We will continue to work hard.  To show Canada and the world how good we can be. How fair we can be. And how smart we can be.  We will all be better off because of it.”

This is a worthy aim, and certainly a sentiment that Canadians can be proud of. Making us all better off is, when you drill right down to it, one of the most fundamental and critical roles of government. The Government of Canada plans to raise nearly $300 billion this year, and spend even more than that, in the service of making life better for all Canadians.

It’s a bit of a surprise then, that not a cent of that $300+ billion to be spent has been allocated to research, education, or interventions for the 1.3 million Canadians, approximately 4% of our population, who have Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD).

Three times the number of Canadians have FASD as Autism Spectrum Disorder, yet there is still remarkably little public discussion and urgency on the topic. For 30 years now we have heard about the dangers of alcohol use during pregnancy, yet the sense that something drastic must be done, and the corresponding federal funding, is not forthcoming.

Why is this?

One reason is that there is no national strategy for coordinating Canada’s efforts and response to FASD. The Canada FASD Research Network is a group of researchers who have come together to coordinate research priorities, but there is no group that the government could give money to address FASD.

We also recognize that many families are unable to advocate for their loved ones because of the stigma and shame that continues to surround FASD. We are proud of the families and professionals who are advocating for their loved ones with FASD, but time and time again, the response to their advocacy is long waitlists or an absence of services altogether.

We know a lot about FASD, but there is still work to be done.

We know about FASD prevention and interventions, and we need funding to share this information and develop FASD service delivery best practices. Funding for federally-provided service delivery such as corrections, family supports, and support for Indigenous communities is critical. There is no designated money to serve populations with FASD, and many adults who live with FASD don’t know that they need intervention, or where to get it, so they end up on the margins of society.

There is no treatment that reverses the impacts of FASD, but there are many interventions for people with FASD that support them in living whole and fulfilling lives and reduce the burden that we all bear in court time, incarceration, health care and other costs that can occur when they don’t have necessary supports. Funding is needed to provide this programming across Canada to all Canadians with FASD.

We applaud the Government of Canada for the lofty and inclusive language used in the budget, and we don’t begrudge any other group or policy area for money they received. However, we hope that this government and others recognize the importance of funding for FASD in the service of making all Canadians better off. We remain ever hopeful that together as a country we can allocate sufficient money for research, education, and front-line interventions to support those with FASD and their families.


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Audrey McFarlane

Executive Director CanFASD Research Network

For more information on CanFASD please visit


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Becoming addicted is gradual process involving the interplay of genetic factors, early experiences, and the effects of potentially addictive substances and experiences on specific brain systems over time.


Compounds and experiences with addictive potential activate the brain’s reward circuitry. These triggers are also called reinforcers because the pleasurable feeling we get from them makes us more likely to engage in them again. Both alcohol and illicit drugs are powerful reinforcers, as are food, sex, and gambling. These substances and experiences cause the release of large amounts of the neurotransmitter dopamine in the brain’s reward system. Heightened levels of dopamine over long periods of time produce structural and chemical adaptations in these circuits as the brain tries to regain a state of balance. These adaptations ultimately underlie behaviours like bingeing, escalating use, and symptoms of withdrawal when the drugs or experiences are taken away.


Another brain system changed by addictive behaviours is the air traffic control system (also called the “executive function” system) in the pre-frontal cortex of the brain. The ability to resist strong urges or to follow through on decisions to stop an addictive behaviour may be impaired in the addicted brain. Thus, although a person may be sincere about intending to stop a behaviour, he or she may find that a weakened air traffic control system saying “stop” is overpowered by an altered reward-and-motivation system that causes powerful cravings for the addictive substance or activity. Appropriate treatment can help improve functioning of the air traffic control circuits, thus helping a person regain control.


Research has now shown that children with poor impulse control, such as those with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), may also be at risk for addiction. These children may engage in risky behaviours at earlier ages and more frequently than other children. From a prevention perspective, understanding the factors that contribute to developing an addiction is crucial so that we can monitor and mitigate risk appropriately. Read more about childhood ADHD and future addiction (third-party research).


Research shows that substance and behavioural addictions can occur within the same individual and that multiple variants of substance or process addiction can be expressed at the same time. Thus, people can have multiple addictions, with each addiction being active to differing degrees of severity. Additionally, depression and anxiety frequently accompany addiction as co-morbid factors.

For more information please visit

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