While the country is buzzing about the opioid crisis, there is another often missed epidemic: fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD). Prenatal alcohol exposure is the leading known cause of intellectual disability in the United States, and its symptoms can be as subtle as ADHD or as pronounced as organ failure.

FASD is an umbrella term representing multiple disorders. The most severe and less common is fetal alcohol syndrome. Many children affected are misdiagnosed with disorders like autism or oppositional defiant disorder, when in fact they are suffering from an FASD. It follows that the symptoms of an FASD often include impulsive behavior and difficulties in communication. With as many as 1 in 20 school children potentially suffering from effects related to prenatal alcohol exposure, this really is a hidden crisis — not unlike the opioid epidemic was 10 years ago.

The opioid crisis must be addressed and those affected offered services. While forging the fight against opioid addiction, we can’t forget to provide our communities, teachers, pediatricians, doctors, and even judges FASD education, and individuals affected appropriate services. The people affected by it must deal with the effects their entire lives.

Susan Elsworth, Alexandria

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