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Can J Psychiatry. 2002 May;47(4):349-54.

Clinical implications of a link between fetal alcohol spectrum disorder and attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder.

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Department of Psychology, University of Saskatoon, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan.



To provide an overview of the animal and human research literature on the link between fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD) and attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).


We conducted a comprehensive literature review that addressed the history of, and current research on, fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS) and FASD, as well as that on ADHD in children.


In animal and human research, there is emerging clinical, neuropsychological, and neurochemical evidence of a link between FASD and ADHD.


The evidence of the link between these 2 conditions has implications for clinical management. The clinical quality of ADHD in children with FASD often differs from that of children without FASD. For children with FASD, ADHD is more likely to be the earlier-onset, inattention subtype, with comorbid developmental, psychiatric, and medical conditions. Children with FASD are commonly not mentally retarded but present complex learning disabilities, especially a mixed receptive-expressive language disorder with deficits in social cognition and communication (reminiscent of sensory aphasia and apraxia), working memory problems, and frequently, a mathematics disorder. Comorbid psychiatric conditions include anxiety, mood, conduct, or explosive disorders. As well, cardiac, renal, or skeletal problems are more likely to be present. Because these children have a disturbance in brain neurochemistry, or even brain structure (that is, in the corpus callosum), their response to standard psychostimulant medication can be quite unpredictable.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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