The adverse effects of alcohol on the developing human have been known since historical times but were not introduced into the medical literature before the late 1960's when French doctors reported that alcohol abuse during pregnancy might cause serious damage to the unborn child. Independently, the same observations were made in the United States, and in 1973 the term fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS) was introduced. Since then, FAS has been recognized in most industrialized and developmental countries where alcohol is widely used. Because of the magnitude of the problem, “The Committee to Study Fetal Alcohol Syndrome” in 1996 published a comprehensive report on the present state of diagnosis, epidemiology, prevention, and treatment of the disorder. The report recognised that only recently, during the last 20 years, have we become aware of the profound impact of substance abuse on individuals, their families, and society. Of all current substance abuse, alcohol is undoubtedly the most serious problem, both when considering the frequency of the disorder, and alcohol's power to injure the embryo and fetus.