It is a well known fact that cigarette smoking is deadly, so why are treatment centers not addressing nicotine dependence when they are addressing all the other chemical dependence issues such as alcoholism, cocaine addiction, and heroin addiction? Many treatment providers minimize the importance of treating nicotine dependence because the other addiction is the main reason they went to treatment. Also, many treatment centers do not realize the significant impact of a brief intervention.

It is proven that clients entering treatment for substance abuse are more likely to be dependent on nicotine than members of the general public. Also, smoking tobacco causes more deaths among clients in substance abuse treatment than the alcohol or drug use that brings them to treatment.

The American Cancer Society has listed health benefits of smoking cessation based on amount of time quit:

20 minutes after quitting: heart rate and blood pressure drop

12 hours after quitting: the carbon monoxide level in your blood drops to normal

2 weeks – 3 months after quitting: your circulation improves and your lung function increases

1-9 months after quitting: coughing and shortness of breath decrease; lungs regain normal function, reduction in risk of infection

1 year after quitting: the excess risk of coronary heart disease is half that of a smoker

5 years after quitting: risk of cancer of the mouth, throat, esophagus, and bladder are cut in half. Cervical cancer risk falls to that of a non-smoker. Stroke risk can fall to that of a non smoker after 2-5 years.

10 years after quitting: the risk of dying from lunch cancer is about half that of a person who is a smoker. The risk of cancer of the larynx and pancreas decreases.

15 years after quitting: the risk of coronary heart disease is that of a non smoker.

Some of the health consequences from smoking are completely reversed, but they all take time. The most important part of helping someone overcome nicotine addiction is screening, brief intervention, and referral to treatment (SBIRT). There are different tools that can be used to properly screen for nicotine dependence. Alcohol, Smoking and Substance Involvement Screening Test (ASSIST) and Treatment Improvement Protocol 45: Detoxification and Substance Abuse Treatment.

If a client is interested in quitting nicotine, there are a few different approaches that are believed to be most effective. Each approach has benefits, but much like treatment substance abuse for alcohol or heroin, it is important to put together an individualized treatment plan for each person. Counseling is a great tool, and is proven to be more effective than mediations alone. Medications are not for everyone, nicotine spray, inhaler, the patch, gum and lozenges are nicotine replacements. If someone is interested in quitting smoking but want to curb the normal symptoms of nicotine withdrawal these medications are helpful. There are also medications such as Bupropion and Varenicline (Chantix), but these should only be used under the care of a healthcare provider. These medications can lead to psychiatric symptoms and are usually not the best resource for clients that are in treatment for other substances.  There are also quitlines, websites, and phone apps that are useful tools when quitting nicotine.

Some people do not want to quit, and in that case treatment centers should re-assess the situation frequently, and try to perform motivational interventions when possible. Clients who are told by a health care provider are more likely to have the urge to quit smoking, compared to smokers that are told by a loved one that they need to stop smoking. Nicotine dependence is very difficult to overcome, so it is important to set a plan in place for relapse prevention. Many people in the process of quitting smoking will relapse, which is why it is important for people to immediately begin to quit again.

New Hope Recovery Center is a substance abuse treatment center for drugs and alcohol located in Chicago, IL. We want to provide the best treatment possible for a clients, and that means implementing a system to provide smoking cessation education. Recovery is possible, let us help.

Written by: New Hope Recovery Center

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