Addictions to alcohol, tobacco, or illegal drugs are ever-present concerns. Research has linked excessive consumption of alcohol to increased risk for liver disease, high blood pressure, and stroke. Other risks of alcohol use include risky behaviors, social problems, loss of employment and strained relationships with family members, and trouble with learning and memory functions. Driving while under the influence is extremely dangerous, yet some people have a false sense of their abilities when drinking heavily. Nurses can spot the indicators of alcoholism and educate patients and their families about the dangers and signs to look for. They can also provide materials and important resources for getting help.
Smoking can cause lung cancer, heart disease, emphysema, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and other health problems. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), smokers are 12 to 13 times more likely to die from COPD than nonsmokers. Nearly 90 percent of the cases of lung cancer are also related to smoking. Secondhand smoke has also been connected to higher rates of ear infections, sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), respiratory infections, and frequent, severe asthma attacks in infants and children. Nurses can help smokers by offering information and support and applying their knowledge toward tobacco cessation program planning and implementation, for example.
Drug abuse affects the user’s mind and body in many ways. According to information from a national drug and alcohol treatment center, more deaths, disabilities, and illnesses result from substance abuse than from any other preventable health condition. Health problems that can come from abusing drugs include nausea, vomiting, seizures, strokes, cardiovascular conditions, and weakened immune systems. Nurses are trained to recognize and treat the indicators of drug abuse. They can offer patients and their families a sense of hope by providing materials and resources for treatment and opening the door to helpful next steps.