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Smoking slows recovery from drug abuse

Smoking slows recovery from drug abuse

08-14 | CDAH Team

“Smoking kills. If you’re killed, you’ve lost a very important part of your life.”

― Brooke Shields

Much before the Hollywood legends of yore have glamorized it with their onscreen personas, smoking in our society was a deeply entrenched habit among people. What often starts as a style statement for youngsters continues to stay with them as an addiction for years. Sadly, what many people fail to recognize is the fact that smoking not only motivates one to indulge in drug abuse but also slows down the recovery process. The failure to recognize the comorbid disorder like smoking can worsen the condition of a patient.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there are about 15.8 percent of American adults (aged 18 years and above) who regularly smoke cigarettes. Surprisingly, the percentage is as high as 97 among the patients enrolled for treatment from substance use disorder (SUD). Yet treatment programs capable of addressing smoking along with SUD were virtually non-existent until some time ago.

The justifications for not incorporating recovery plans for smoking along with drug abuse treatment are aplenty, and based on premises, that smoking does not present an immediate danger the way other drugs do in recovery or that focusing on two separate addictions could be a waste of resources. Even medical practitioners feel that the primary and more threatening addiction should be taken care of first. They also believe that the efforts toward trying to quit smoking could inadvertently reduce the success of recovery from the primary addiction.

Some people also believe that smoking helps patients to abstain from other substances like alcohol and drugs, which is completely erroneous.  On the contrary, there are evidence-based studies, which say that smokers are two times more likely than nonsmokers to relapse within three years.

Is anti-smoking therapy important for SUD recovery plans?

In traditional rehabilitation practices, smoking is perceived as less dangerous than drug addiction and therefore was not accorded priority. However, findings of several studies have made it clear that smoking presents a greater danger to people with SUD.

In a study based on 845 patients treated for alcoholism and dependence on non-nicotine drugs in Minnesota, it revealed that deaths of 50.9 percent of the patients were caused by tobacco-related ailments and 33.1 percent occurred due to the underlying alcohol or drug-related causes. In a separate 24-year-old study, it was found that the death rate among smokers was four times higher than nonsmokers. On the patients with a history of alcoholism, tobacco seemed to have a negative effect on their physical and mental health compared to the nonsmokers with alcohol dependence.

In one of the earlier mentioned studies led by Renee Goodwin of the department of epidemiology at Columbia University’s School of Public Health in New York, analyzed the government data of nearly 35,000 U.S. adults enrolled in the National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions (NESARC). It found that 11 percent of those who were smokers and who continued to smoke relapsed into addiction compared to only 8 percent of relapses witnessed among those who quit smoking and 6.5 percent of relapses among nonsmokers. Their paper was recently published online in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry.

The results of all the above studies highlight that patients can recover better and faster from alcohol or drug abuse if they quit smoking. Hence, it is important to treat nicotine dependency along with SUD for improved results.

Road to recovery

Scientific studies have shown that nicotine, alcohol, and drugs of abuse stimulate the same pathways in the brain that are linked to addictive behaviors. Even smoking causes massive changes in the brain of smokers making them more susceptible to drug addiction.

It is a well-known fact that the persistent use of tobacco is responsible for triggering many diseases. Nicotine addiction is a significant problem in the United States that causes a range of psychological effects similar to those triggered by heroin or illicit drug addictions. Thus, it is pertinent that any treatment for substance abuse also takes cognizance of nicotine dependency.

If you or your loved one is struggling with drug addiction, get in touch with the Colorado Drug Addiction Helpline for information about the best addiction treatment centers in Colorado specializing in evidence-based intervention plans. Call at our 24/7 helpline number 866-218-7546 or chat online to access further information on addiction treatment in Colorado.


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