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Thursday, May 30, 2019

Relapse Prevention: Quitting Tobacco

relapse prevention
Nicotine is often the first addictive substance people in recovery ever try and the last to quit. Many people who work programs of recovery continue to smoke long after they put down their last drink or drug. Treatment centers have varying and divergent opinions about permitting nicotine use. Some allow it, and some don’t; but, practically every center is determined to encourage cessation.

While quitting tobacco may not be at the top of an addict or alcoholic's list of problems, there are many good reasons to quit. The list of health disorders, including cancers that afflict smokers, is long.

Tobacco use is the leading cause of preventable disease, disability, and death in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Almost 40 million American adults smoke cigarettes.

Ideally, people in recovery will tackle their addiction to tobacco while addressing their other use disorders. However, the thought of giving up cigarettes while learning to cope with life without drugs and alcohol is too much for some people. Some addiction professionals even endorse that kind of thinking, believing it best to deal with the more severe disorders first.

There is a growing body of evidence that suggests addressing smoking while a person is in addiction treatment is the most beneficial. Below we will discuss some of the reasons people in recovery might want to prioritize giving up nicotine.

Preventing Relapse is Priority Number One


Men and women who seek addiction treatment receive instruction on how to live life on life’s terms. They learn how to cope with their feelings without having to turn to mind-altering substances. Relapse prevention is a significant facet of addiction recovery; anything people can do to protect their program is essential.

Those who are addicted to nicotine will usually smoke more when they are feeling stressed. Cigarettes serve as an unhealthy crutch during times of difficulty. While nicotine may alleviate a person’s stress, it also reinforces the belief that there is a chemical solution to one’s problems.

“Even though various substances have different pharmacological mechanisms, all drugs of abuse ultimately affect the same reward pathway,” said Dr. Heather L. Kimmel, Health Scientist Administrator of NIDA’s Epidemiology Research Branch. “Abstinence from all of them will help the patient move to a new physiological state and, hopefully, a new mental state as well.” 

Sure, it may not be as bad as having a drink, but it still does a disservice to men and women’s recovery. What’s more, current research suggests that smoking in recovery increases the risk of relapse. The findings appear in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry.

Researchers analyzed data provided by 5,515 people recovering from substance use disorder, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). They found that those who still smoked three years after the initial interview were about 1.5 times more likely to relapse. Heavy smokers were at even higher risk of relapse; the likelihood of relapse increased by 0.7 percent for each cigarette smoked per day.

“So far, the bulk of evidence suggests that concurrent smoking cessation and substance use treatment is the most beneficial approach,” Dr. Renee D. Goodwin of the Graduate School of Public Health and Health Policy, CUNY, said.

On May 31st, the World Health Organization (WHO) observes World No Tobacco Day (WNTD). The event is meant to raise awareness of the harmful effects of tobacco use. Smokers in recovery may want to take the opportunity to learn more about cessation options tomorrow. Smoking cessation can protect your recovery and overall health.

SLO County Addiction Rehab


Please contact The Haven at Pismo if you or someone you love is struggling with drugs or alcohol. We provide a full continuum of care to help rebuild lives and restore hope. We are available at any time to answer your questions about our program.