Substance abuse is a complex social, psychological, and clinical problem that has a tremendous impact on today’s society. Therefore, substance abuse is included as one of the key objectives of the Healthy People 2020 initiative established by the US Department of Health and Human Services. From a nursing perspective, it is important to identify specific interventions that will diagnose substance abuse and improve outcomes for this population. Nurses working with patients who experience substance abuse must recognize the signs and symptoms and conduct interventions as necessary to ensure that these patients are protected from further risk or harm in this capacity.
The issue of substance abuse is of critical importance on a national level. As a result, the Department of Health and Human Services has included substance abuse to its list of Healthypeople.gov objectives for consideration and implementation. To be specific, the chosen objective addresses the challenges of treating individuals facing substance abuse and the costs associated with this condition, which are in excess of $600 billion (Healthypeople.gov, 2013). In addition, the behavioral concerns and screening procedures as conducted by nurses and other clinical professionals must be considered (US Preventative Services Task Force, 2013). Currently, there are approximately 22 million Americans with some form of a substance abuse problem, which often leads to other problems such as crime, poor performance in school or at work, delinquency, domestic violence, and other concerns (Healthypeople.gov, 2013). Therefore, it is important to identify the challenges associated with managing substance abuse as a significant social problem in the United States.
There are a number of health-related challenges associated with substance abuse, including pregnancy, abuse, infectious diseases, and cardiovascular complications, amongst others (Healthypeople.gov, 2013). Therefore, it is necessary to address the objectives of the Healthypeople.gov mandate in the context of health and wellbeing across all population groups, as this demonstrates the importance of recognizing substance abuse and its widespread impact on general health (Healthypeople.gov, 2013). The adoption of the Affordable Care Act represents a challenge to public substance abuse strategies and treatment programs due to anticipated changes in federal and state spending for these programs and the level of support that will be provided to patients (Buck, 2011). In this capacity, it is important to identify the need for increased individualization within healthcare treatment programs to improve and retain recovery rates and greater outcomes (Buck, 2011). However, the issues with substance abuse treatment programs will not disappear under the new healthcare mandate; rather, they are likely to worsen over time (Buck, 2011). Therefore, additional measures must be considered to improve substance abuse treatment planning for millions of Americans (Buck, 2011).
Substance abuse is an increasingly prevalent problem among adolescent groups, whereby almost one-half of high school seniors have used illicit drugs for a period of time (Ilgen et.al, 2011). However, the large majority of this group has not obtained any type of formal substance abuse treatment, with only 9.9 percent obtaining treatment for illicit drugs and 5.9 percent for alcohol abuse (Ilgen et.al, 2011). This is a significant concern that requires further insight and evaluation in order to improve recovery rates and to reduce the utilization of these substances within the adolescent population (Ilgen et.al, 2011). These statistics demonstrate the importance of working collaboratively to identify substance abuse within the adolescent population and the development of new strategies that will be successful in treating this problem on a permanent basis in today’s youth (Ilgen et.al, 2011).
For nurses working with patients facing substance abuse, there is a critical need to develop and enhance education and knowledge regarding this issue and its widespread prevalence throughout the U.S. population. It is recommended that screening interventions are conducted on vulnerable populations who exhibit signs or symptoms of alcohol abuse or misuse to determine if additional support is required (US Preventative Services Task Force, 2013). It is expected that for those who q ualify for additional services, counseling and possible clinical interventions are available to improve outcomes, including multicontact behavioral counseling for this patient population (US Preventative Services Task Force, 2013).
Nurse-led interventions using specialized techniques have demonstrated some degree of success with alcohol dependency and prevents increased numbers of hospitalizations for this population group (Ryder et.al, 2010). Nurses who serve as alcohol liaisons for specific patients may offer additional insight into referral statistics and other elements which support the necessity for continued interventions by specialized nurses (Ryder et.al, 2010). Therefore, it is imperative that nurse-led interventions continue to take place as a means of reducing long-term complications that may result from alcohol misuse in patients because they provide important clinical and psychological benefits, including a reduced number of hospitalizations and readmissions for these patients over time (Ryder et.al, 2010).
Substance abuse is a highly significant problem in the United States and is woven into almost every area of the American culture. Therefore, it is necessary to develop strategies and approaches that will be effective in recognizing substance abuse across all age groups and that will manage these problems through comprehensive treatment planning and execution. A variety of resources are necessary to improve outcomes for this group of individuals. Therefore, nurses must play an active role in each step of this process and must provide much-needed knowledge and expertise regarding the needs of this patient population to promote the treatment of withdrawal and other symptoms, to repair mental and psychological damage as a result of drugs and/or alcohol abuse, and to encourage a lasting commitment to recovery and wellbeing over the long term.
Buck, J.A. (2011). The looming expansion and transformation of public substance abuse treatment under the Affordable Care Act. Health Affairs, 30(8), 1402-1410.
Healthypeople.gov (2013). Substance Abuse. Retrieved from http://www.healthypeople.gov/2020/lhi/substanceabuse.aspx
Ilgen, M.A., Schulenberg, J., Kloska, D.D., Czyz, E., Johnston, L., and O’Malley, P. (2011).Prevalence and characteristics of substance abuse treatment utilization by US adolescents: national data from 1987 to 2008. Addictive Behaviors, 36(12), 1349-1352.
Ryder, S.D., Aithal, G.P., Holmes, M., Burrows, M., and Wright, N.R. (2010). Effectiveness of a nurse-led alcohol liaison service in a secondary care medical unit. Clinical Medicine, 10(5), 435-440.
US Preventative Services Task Force (2013). Screening and behavioral counseling interventions in primary care to reduce alcohol misuse. Retrieved from http://www.uspreventiveservicestaskforce.org/uspstf12/alcmisuse/alcmisusesum.htm