Prenatal alcohol exposure can cause a whole spectrum of central nervous system (CNS) sequelae that persist throughout the life span and manifest in a spectrum of effects from clinically indistinguishable to severely impairing. The greatest impact of alcohol as a teratogen is to the brain-the greatest need is for holistic treatment and management of the associated mental disorders. The interaction of this subtle brain damage with the complex psychosocial circumstances surrounding the birth of a child to a mother with alcohol problems can further compound development and result in costly and devastating social consequences. Research is urgently needed on the chronic neuropsychiatric sequelae of these subtle birth defects of the brain. Identification of these fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD) in the psychiatric nomenclature is a necessary step to focus the attention and resources of the mental health field on this personally and socially significant problem.