For decades, experts have searched for answers when it comes to Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) but one has remained a mystery, until now.
On Monday, 10 leading experts in this area began work on medication guidelines so health care providers will no longer need to write prescriptions based on their best guess.
The first-ever algorithm developed by an international panel included Dr. Mansfield Mela, head of the psycho-legal and FASD research lab at the University of Saskatchewan (U of S), who hopes to have it published within the year.
“We’ve been encouraged by the hope that there are people with FASD that say, ‘Yes, this works for me’ and we’re also encouraged that there’s literature to support that there are things that actually do work if you get it right,” Mela said.
“We’re hoping that these challenges will be overcome by the algorithm.”
The algorithm should unlock answers for health care providers and eliminate any guessing games when prescribing medications to someone with FASD.
The guidelines should also lead to patients being prescribed the right medication the first time, without unwanted side-effects.
“It really provides the average provider – whether they be a psychiatrist or family doctor – with an expert’s opinion on what has worked because this has just not been done before,” Dr. Marilyn Baetz, head of the department of psychiatry at the U of S, said.
“Rather than treat everybody as a one-off, we’re able to now look and say ‘this is the best evidence overall.'”
WATCH BELOW: FASD awareness
According to experts, FASD is often accompanied by other mental health issues which is why it’s difficult to prescribe medication.
It’s estimated 92 per cent of those living with FASD have other psychiatric conditions including ADHD or depression.
Other studies have shown that a range of 10 to 20 percent of those in the criminal justice system have FASD which is why officials say early intervention is key.
“What we hope is if this algorithm, which we expect will work, intervenes appropriately at a good time, most of the patients will come back, most of the patients will improve in their symptoms,” Mela said.
“More importantly, most FASD individuals have additional problems and if we take care of those additional problems we will improve their quality of life.”