Dr. Carl Bell, a retired professor of psychiatry and public health at the University of Illinois at Chicago, currently a staff psychiatrist at Jackson Park Hospital, calls Fetal Alcohol Syndrome the “biggest public health problem for African-Americans since slavery.” Dr. Bell has treated patients for over 40 years.
“Now since 1967 as a physician I have been witnessing this phenomenon. That, when I was in medical school, was called socio-cultural mental retardation,” Dr. Carl Bell stated, according to the Sun Times, speaking of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome and other neurological damage with the same cause. “It’s only been recently that I’ve been able to figure out what the hell I was seeing.”
Dr. Bell published a new study on an epidemic of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome on the South Side of Chicago. In an unbelievably disproportionate rate compared with the whole of the American society, Dr. Bell and his colleague discovered that a staggering 39 percent of patients at a family medicine clinic in Chicago were found to display “clinical profiles consistent with neurobehavioral disorders associated with prenatal alcohol exposure (ND-PAE).” Even more frightening, when just the children were studied, 57 percent of the patients showed profiles consistent with ND-PAE. ND-PAE “is a new clarifying term, intended to encompass the full range of developmental disabilities associated with exposure to alcohol in utero.” The general U.S. population exhibits ND-PAE between two and five percent of the time. The Sun Times article likened the unremitting violence attributed to ND-PAE to genocide, calling Chicago’s south and west sides “war zones.”
Of the children who exhibited these clinical profiles, 100 percent of them were black, according to Medscape, and the median household income of the individuals involved in the study was $33,809.
Dr. Bell says these Chicago residents with fetal alcohol syndrome have gone undiagnosed. With no intervention, and subtle brain damage, Bell says that many find it difficult to keep a job. Though many graduate, even basic math is difficult. Bell says the undiagnosed individuals with fetal alcohol syndrome have “explosive tempers” and “bad judgment.”
Dr. Bell noted that screening is crucial for this community and other communities at-risk. He urged screening for alcohol related problems in every child in the nation. He said that postnatal treatment with the nutrient choline has demonstrated the ability to “ameliorate some of the sequelae” in children who were exposed to alcohol during pregnancy. The study was published online in Psychiatric Services in Advance and stresses that maternal alcohol consumption during pregnancy is the largest preventable cause of intellectual disability.
“Clinicians need to become more adept at obtaining patients’ historical information and identifying physical characteristics of neurodevelopmental disorders.
ND-PAE criteria was proposed in section three of the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorder(DSM-5), and investigators called for it to be given more serious consideration.
“This disorder is aligned with concepts of fetal alcohol syndrome, the most severe outcome of fetal alcohol exposure, and fetal alcohol spectrum disorders.”
Dr. Bell’s research was profoundly important, because in the tested population, 49 percent had been diagnosed with some sort of neurodevelopmental disorder during childhood, but examples of the diagnoses were Autism Spectrum Disorder, intellectual disability, or ADHD.
“Their brains are neurologically damaged. And they don’t have control of their emotions,” Dr. Bell told My Fox Chicago. “A lot of these patients are naive. They’re easily frustrated. They, uh, again you see the explosive temper that goes on for maybe an hour.”
What do you think of Dr. Carl Bell’s new research and his assertion that fetal alcohol syndrome is the “biggest public health problem for African-Americans since slavery?”
[Photo compiled from AAFP and Family Practice News]