Health, social and legal outcomes of individuals with diagnosed or at risk for Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder: Canadian example

Popova S, Temple V, Dozet D, O’Hanlon G, Toews C, Rehm J,Health, social and legal outcomes of individuals with diagnosed or at risk for Fetal AlcoholSpectrum Disorder: Canadian example,Drug and Alcohol Dependence (2020), doi:


In this population-based sample of individuals diagnosed with FASD:

  • 78% had mental health comorbidities
  • 38% had other physical comorbidities
  • 50% used substances
  • 30% were involved in the criminal justice system
  • 75% were in the child welfare system and 4 times more likely to have anxiety disorder.



Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) is a leading cause of lifelong developmental and physical disabilities and behavioural problems. This study describes the characteristics of individuals diagnosed with FASD in British Columbia, Canada.


A retrospective chart review and cross-sectional analysis were conducted on records of individuals diagnosed or at risk for FASD at the Asante Centre from January 2015 to July 2019. Descriptive statistics results were stratified by age, sex, and involvement with the criminal justice and child welfare systems. Logistic regression was used to investigate potential associations.


161 individuals with diagnosed or at risk for FASD, (53% male; mean age = 15.7 years, SD = 9.1) were included in the analysis. High levels of psychological/developmental disabilities (78%), physical comorbidities (38%), substance use (50%), and involvement in child welfare (75%) and criminal justice systems (30%) were found across the entire group. Individuals over 20 reported the greatest proportion of any past substance (60.9%), alcohol use (39.1%) and stimulant use (30.4%), compared to individuals aged 10-19 (41.3%; 12.0%; 14.1%, respectively). Involvement with the child welfare system was associated with higher chances of having anxiety (OR 4.1; 95% CI: 1.25-15.00). Involvement with the criminal justice system was associated with higher rates of past substance and cannabis use.


Individuals with FASD demonstrate a significant need for access to mental health and addiction services, especially among those with involvement in the child welfare and criminal justice systems. These findings point to the importance of improving policies to support the unique needs of individuals with FASD.

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