The lobby of the alcohol industry is as silently powerful as the seductive influence of its subliminal advertising. Sexy, gorgeous young people posing with our social drug of choice (AKA alcohol) flood the airways, print media and television as though beckoning peers to ‘take this drink so you can be beautiful and sensual, too.’ Such ad campaigns are aimed toward libidinal, primal drives to encourage intercourse – with consumers disinhibited to the point that anyone is a potential mate. Even a 5th grader knows that a provocative marketing strategy to recruit childbearing age alcohol consumers through basic drive mechanisms (i.e., libidinal disinhibition) is unethical. Like my then 10 year old daughter said to me on seeing one of these commercials, “Mommy, look. Those people are drinking alcohol on TV and being all sexy. They’re going to make a baby with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome.” She was right.
Alcohol advertising directed at reproductive age individuals should include warnings that contraceptives are necessary to prevent alcohol-related birth defects, neurodevelopmental issues, and other reproductive health problems that can happen as early as the first three weeks after conception – well before most pregnancies are recognized. On average, 50% of US pregnancies are unplanned and nearly 15% of American women binge drink between the ages of 18 to 44. A binge episode is considered at least 4 to 5 servings of alcohol. For many college students, that’s a light weight pre-game amount. For some, 12 servings is a small amount to drink over the course of a weekend night. As little as 4-5 servings of beer, wine or liquor is enough to cause the full blown fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS) if perfectly timed in the late 3rd week post conception. That’s when even those sexy models in the alcohol ads are unaware they may be pregnant.
Why is this one industry immune to the disastrous consequences caused by its product?” After all, the entire over-the-counter pharmaceutical industry was transformed by the “Tylenol” crisis of the 1980s when a consumer (not even the manufacturer) tampered with the product leading to several deaths. Since 1973 when Drs. Ken Jones and David Smith first coined the term “FAS,” over 1.6 million people have been born with this preventable condition…and countless others lost to miscarriage, still birth, sudden infant death syndrome, and birth defects such as anencephaly and spina bifida. Yet why does the burden, blame and shame rest with the mother? What about the mothers in my psychiatric practice whose children have ND-PAE because they drank before pregnancy recognition? Shouldn’t we be shaming the fathers too for causing their sperm DNA to be methylated by alcohol during the 3 months prior to conception?
In honor of FASD Awareness Day, check out the website for my new book: https://www.prenatalalcoholexposure.com The Silent Epidemic: A Child Psychiatrist’s Journey beyond Death Row. #Epidemic #NeurodevelopmentalDisorders #PrenatalAlcoholExposure #BiggerthanZika!