Health workforce

Involvement of nurses and midwives in screening and brief interventions for hazardous and harmful use of alcohol and other psychoactive substances

A literature review

Publication details

Number of pages: 99
Publication date: June 2010
Languages: English
WHO reference number: WHO/HRH/HPN/10-6


WHO estimates that about two billion people use alcohol globally. The harmful alcohol use accounts for 4.5% of the global burden of disease and is responsible for 3.8% of all deaths worldwide. Psychoactive substance use and substance use disorders can result in a wide range of health and social problems for individuals, their families and the wider community.

Given the extent of the problem and the risks of hazardous and harmful substance use to health, nurses and midwives are well placed to deliver appropriate interventions in a broad range of settings such as primary health care, hospital or antenatal care settings. This review will help to further the role of nurses and midwives in this area.

This report provides evidence on the involvement of nurses in screening and brief interventions which could be adopted or replicated in different contexts. The report highlights specifically the following areas:

  • Screening and brief interventions is a variety of settings;
  • Nurses and midwives' practice of screening and delivering brief interventions;
  • Facilitators and barriers to nurses and midwives' involvement in screening and brief interventions;
  • Best practices supporting screening and brief interventions;
  • Recommendations on policy, research, education and training and practice.

Nurses and midwives can have a significant impact on the prevalence of hazardous and harmful use of psychoactive substances. This can be further enhanced, for example through

  • the development of nationally agreed training programmes in screening and brief interventions;
  • the inclusion of topics on alcohol and other psychoactive substance use in undergraduate and post-graduate nursing and midwifery curricula; and
  • routine screening of new patients and further research on effectiveness of screening and brief interventions.