ADHD mostly a fetal alcohol syndrome?

ADHD mostly a fetal alcohol syndrome?

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Often misdiagnosed ADHD
Alcohol during pregnancy mostly damages the child for life. The consequences can be seen, for example, in brain damage, growth disorders, and perceptual disorders. The alcohol-related disorder syndrome is called FAS (Fetal Alcohol Syndrome) or FASD (also milder forms, Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder) and is considered to be undisputed and clearly diagnosable, especially if prenatal alcohol consumption is proven.

As serious as this damage, which is actually easy to avoid, is to be taken, ignorance of it is terrifying. Around 2,000 FAS babies are born in Germany every year, and around 10,000 are currently diagnosed in this way. Approx. 44% of women do not know anything about the sometimes devastating alcohol effects during pregnancy, especially not that even small amounts of alcohol can have bad consequences and only protect complete abstinence. one in 68 pregnant mothers give birth to a FAS child, if you include FASD, there are more. FAS is therefore more common than Down syndrome.

In the milder forms of FASD, the syndrome shows practically the same symptoms as ADHD. "Characteristics are constant motor restlessness, nervousness, very short-term interest in a task or quick change from one toy to the next, uninhibitedness and impulsiveness in social behavior" (Feldmann 2017). Many FASD children therefore also receive the ADHD diagnosis as a bonus, as it were, although, unlike FAS, ADHD cannot be objectified. It is the well-known mistake in thinking to deduce several diseases from one syndrome, although these are objectively indistinguishable. An FASD child therefore does not have ADHD unless ADHD can be objectified. Many ADHD children are likely to be misdiagnosed FASD children, especially if alcohol consumption was unknown, disregarded, or kept secret for reasons of social desirability.

So far, a connection between alcohol during pregnancy and later "ADHD" has not been established. A German research group led by Burger, PH already pointed out the methodological weakness of the previous studies 6 years ago, in which prenatal alcohol consumption was not measured objectively, but only by means of maternal self-assessment, which is subject to social desirability. "The questionnaire-based / determined in the interview data can not be regarded as reliable. Studies in which an evaluation based on objective alcohol degradation parameters such as fatty acid ethyl ester or ethyl glucuronide was carried out showed dramatically higher rates of alcohol consumption in pregnant women than could have been inferred from the data ”(Burger et. Al.).

Studies that want to investigate a connection between prenatal alcohol and ADHD must therefore use objective data. And this is exactly what a research group led by A. Eichler has achieved with a prospective investigation: The self-reported information of the examined mothers about prenatal alcohol showed no connection to the ADHD behavior of their children in primary school. But the ethyl glucuronide values ​​measured at birth showed a clear correlation with the cognitive development and ADHD behavior of children 6 years later in primary school. Fetal alcohol syndrome can also be hidden behind “ADHD”. (Dipl.-Psych. Hans-Reinhard Schmidt)


1. P. H. Burger, T. W. Goecke, P. A. Fasching, G. Moll, H. Heinrich, M. Beckmann, J. Kornhuber: Influence of maternal alcohol consumption during pregnancy on the development of ADHD in children. Georg Thieme 2011.

2. The Federal Government's drug commissioner: alcohol consumption during pregnancy and fetal alcohol syndrome. November 1, 2016

3. SPIEGEL: Every fourth pregnant woman in Germany drinks alcohol.

4. Eichler A et. al .: Effects of prenatal alcohol consumption on cognitive development and ADHD-related behavior in primary-school age: a multilevel study based on meconium ethyl glucuronide. J Child Psychol Psychiatry 2017 Sep 11.

5. Feldmann, R .: The Fetal Alcohol Syndrome. Campus Münster 2017

Author and source information

Video: Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (June 2022).


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