April 8, 1998

Fetal Alcohol Exposure Linked to Mental Illness

A study found that fetal alcohol exposure increases the risk of developing a mental illness, Reuters reported April 6.

Research conducted by Chris Famy of the University of Washington School of Medicine in Seattle, Wash., found a high rate of mental illnesses among 25 adult patients who were exposed to alcohol while in the womb.

The study by Famy and his colleagues found that 18 of the 25 subjects had received psychiatric treatment; 15 patients reported alcohol or drug dependence; 11 said they had a major depressive episode; 10 indicated they had a personality disorder; and 10 reported a psychotic disorder. Others reported anxiety, panic, eating and stress disorders.

"These results indicate that individuals with fetal alcohol syndrome or fetal alcohol effect manifested clinically significant mental illness as they matured, and that most used some form of counseling or psychiatric treatment," according to the study's authors.

The study, which calls for additional research into the effects of fetal alcohol exposure, is published in the April issue of the American Journal of Psychiatry.

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