Last Friday for my substance abuse class, my group and I gave our presentation on family issues relating to substance abuse. I must say, I think this was one of the best group presentations I have given so far in the program. There were four of us total in the group and we each researched a specific topic relating to the umbrella theme. To start out the presentation, we decided to get a little creative and we role played a mock intervention based on A&E’s popular television show, Intervention. One of my group mates assumed the role of the alcoholic mother, another group mate played her enabling husband, I portrayed the “lost child” daughter, and our final group mate played the role of the interventionist. However, the best part of the presentation was the move clip that we showed first: a homemade documentary highlighting the drinking problem of our alcoholic mother.
As we dimmed the lights, rolled the movie, and the Intervention theme song reverberated through the classroom, I think it is safe to say that we captured everyone’s attention. After the short documentary clip ended, our alcoholic mother came storming into the classroom, fully dressed for the part holding a martini glass, for the long-awaited intervention. As her enabling husband and I read our heart-wrenching letters of why she should get help, she eventually agreed to treatment.
While we certainly had fun with the creative aspect to our presentation, I do not want to send the wrong message that we were making light of substance abuse within the family context. Having a family member that is affected by drug or alcohol dependence is a very serious issue that has a multitude of consequences on the whole family and its structure. For my part of the presentation I focused on children of alcoholics and specifically I researched Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders. I found some interesting information that I thought I would share with you guys.
Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD) refers to a group of conditions that are caused by maternal alcohol consumption during pregnancy. The effects of FASD can include physical, mental, behavioral, and learning impairments and they can range in severity based on the timing and dosage of alcohol consumption. Obviously, the more alcohol is consumed the greater the risk for more damage. The most severe Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder is Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, which is characterized by the following symptoms: prenatal or postnatal growth retardation (height and weight under the 10th percentile), central nervous system abnormalities and brain damage, cognitive deficits, learning disabilities, behavioral impairments, and facial malformations. I have included a picture below depicting the typical facial malformations. Basically, what happens in FASD’s is that when alcohol is consumed during pregnancy, the alcohol crosses the placenta and enters the system of the fetus where it acts as a toxin and results in damage to the developing brain and body.
One of the most interesting things that I came across while doing my research was that Fetal Alcohol Syndrome went unrecognized until the 1970’s. It was not until 1981 that the Surgeon General advised that women should not consume alcohol during pregnancy because of the risks of birth defects. As a result, until that time many women had no idea that the consumption of alcohol while pregnant could have detrimental effects on their children. I watched a really interesting documentary about a group of mothers whose lack of awareness and education to the effects of alcohol during pregnancy resulted in the births of their children with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome. I urge you all to check it out if you have time, as it was really eye opening to hear their stories and gain an understanding to the importance of psychoeducation.