Health Risk Factors


Short term effects of smoking

In the short-term smoking causes bad breath, discoloured teeth and nails and an increased risk of developing throat and chest infections, coughs and colds. Smoking also causes your hair and clothes to smell unpleasant.

Illnesses caused by smoking

Smoking is a serious risk to general health, as well as being a significant contributor to illnesses such as cancer; smoking has been directly linked to lung, oral, oesophageal and stomach cancer, as well as being influential in the development of respiratory illnesses such as chronic bronchitis and emphysema. Smoking puts additional strain on all the organs in the body and is particularly damaging to the lungs and heart, as it constricts the arteries; this subsequently affects the circulatory system; poor circulation can be extremely dangerous and potentially fatal as it may bring about cardiac arrest.

Smoking and fertility

Smoking can affect both women’s and men’s fertility; in women, the chances of conceiving are reduced by prolonged smoking. Pregnant women who smoke are more likely to have a miscarriage and may be at risk of going into labour prematurely; this means the baby will be underdeveloped and small. Babies born to mothers who smoke regularly may also develop difficulties with their breathing. Smoking reduces male sperm count and can bring about impotence, which will significantly reduce the chances of conceiving a baby. Smoking also contributes to testicular cancer.

Giving up smoking

If you want to quit you should contact your GP who will be able to discuss your options with you. The NHS Smokefree campaign offers practical advice and support, as well as arranging professional help and regular group sessions.


Most people enjoy a drink now and again and this is generally perfectly healthy; however binge drinking and prolonged drinking can be extremely dangerous. Research conducted by the Scottish Government confirmed that in some parts of Scotland the number of alcohol-related deaths is up to 6 times higher than the U.K average.

Short term affects of drinking

In the short term drinking alcohol can make you feel giggly and woozy, which may be harmless; however, alcohol also affects your ability to make decisions and judge situations and you may find that you end up doing something you wouldn’t normally do. A considerable number of accidents are caused by poor judgement as a result of alcohol consumption; while this may be something minor like tripping over, it could also be something extremely serious, such as falling from a height and may potentially be fatal. Decisions which affect your general or sexual health are also impacted by drinking and may have serious and lasting implications.

Long term affects of drinking

Prolonged drinking is extremely harmful to the body and can be fatal. Heavy drinking is directly linked to the development of serious illnesses such as heart disease, strokes and liver disease. Alcohol misuse also affects your mental health can cause extreme anxiety, stress and depression.

Social effects of drinking

Prolonged drinking will affect your ability to work and will impact considerably on your social and familial relationships. Alcoholics generally prioritise drinking over their family and friends, which can cause their loved ones to feel neglected; they will also constantly worry for your health and safety and will be unable to carry on with their normal lives. Alcohol is not cheap and may cause financial stress and worry for those around you.

If you need help

If you need help and are struggling to cut down on drinking you should consult your GP; they will be able to assess your condition and suggest suitable treatment; this may include counselling and therapy as well as attending group sessions where you will be able to chat to others in a similar situation. Charities such as Alcoholics Anonymous also offer guidance and support.


The unknown content of most drugs makes it impossible to predict the effects of taking drugs; the effects are dependent on the individual and is therefore never safe to take drugs; some drugs that have no effect on some people may have an extremely dangerous effect on others.

Short-term effects of taking drugs

Normally taking drugs affects your heart rate and pulse; some may slow these down, while others may cause them to race. Most drugs provide an energy high and can cause the senses to be heightened; some, like cannabis can make you feel relaxed and lethargic. Usually, most people experience a come down after taking drugs; this can cause them to feel drowsy and anxious.

Long-term effects of taking drugs

The effects of regularly taking drugs are highly dependent on the nature of the drug; however all drug addictions can have serious implications for your health. Drug addictions involving substances such as heroin and cocaine can often be fatal as they cause considerable damage to the heart and other major organs. Long-term cannabis addiction can result in extreme paranoia, depression, severe anxiety and memory loss. Drug addictions can have a serious impact on work and family life and can cause considerable financial stress.

If you need help

If you need help to stop taking drugs you should consult your GP; they will be able to assess your condition and advise you of the options available to you. The NHS assigns key workers to all those seeking help to give up drugs; this key worker will be able to advise and support you as well as helping with practical concerns. You can also seek help from a charitable organisation, such as the Samaritans or FRANK; often, these trusts have 24 hour anonymous telephone lines.