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The smoking rate among those addicted to any kind of substance is higher than the overall national smoking rate in the United States. Three out of four people are smokers among addicts, while the national smoking rate is one for every four persons who are not addicted to any substance.

According to a recent study, published in the Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment in November 2016, addiction treatment results for teens in a residential program improved significantly when they stopped smoking. The study is important in terms of addiction treatment as a majority of the people with this problem are also smokers.

The study revealed that teen smokers who are also addicted to alcohol have lower alcohol cravings if they quit smoking and they perform better while seeking treatment for alcoholism, compared to peers who continue to smoke. On the contrary, those who smoked and were discharged from treatment programs had more cravings for alcohol and drugs. They also had a higher chance of relapse than non-smokers or quitters.

Quitting smoking is linked to lower drug cravings

Our results suggest that quitting smoking is associated with lowered drug and alcohol cravings,” said lead author of the study Maria E. Pagano Ph.D., associate professor in the department of psychiatry at the Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine.

The researchers assessed 195 young people who were aged 14 to 18 for over a two-year period. All the respondents were referred to a two-month residential treatment program for addiction. They participated in 20 hours of therapeutic activities every week and also attended 12-step meetings in the local community. Almost 67 percent respondents entered the treatment while smoking half a pack of cigarettes a day, on an average.

Another important observation made was that the participants who had attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) did not gain much from the treatment programs as they were less likely to quit smoking. For others who decide to quit smoking during treatment, there can be a huge jump in the success rate of the treatment program.

Clearly, this is a positive finding for treating drug and alcohol addiction. However, smoking cessation activities are not typically included in drug and alcohol programs because of worries about overload. The concern is that drug and alcohol addiction is a challenging enough battle by itself, let alone trying to quit smoking at the same time. Our results suggest that this outlook may need to be modified,” said Pagano.

The researchers felt that a better treatment outcome was observed among those who stopped smoking because of their extra involvement in service activities at 12-step meetings, such as greeting newcomers at the door, putting away chairs, and helping with coffee, which is considered a great way to reduce the risk of relapse.

Pagano even suggested nicotine patches to help people quit smoking. “To ease the potential suffering caused by nicotine withdrawal, nicotine patches should be routinely offered to all teen smokers in residential treatment,” he said.

He felt that this would lead to a higher number of youths quitting smoking during treatment and they will be discharged with lower cravings for drugs and alcohol. This, in turn, could help increase the success rate of addiction treatment, resulting in reduced health care costs.

Dealing with substance abuse

Substance abuse treatment is long and arduous and in case of chronic addiction, the struggle could be even more difficult. However, with persistence and a little commitment to stay in the treatment, one can definitely go sober.


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