Smoking and addiction seem to go hand in hand. In fact, one study found that approximately 70-80% of people entering addiction treatment were addicted to cigarettes.
To further highlight the problem, another study found that those who are successfully treated for drug and alcohol dependence are much more likely to then die of tobacco-related illnesses than drugs or alcohol. (1)
Despite these facts, nicotine addiction is often overlooked as the “lesser of two evils” when compared to substance abuse. Here we take an honest look at some fears people in early recovery commonly have about quitting smoking, and what scientific studies say about these fears.
Cravings for drugs and alcohol in early recovery are significant and difficult hurdles one must overcome to achieve long-term sobriety.
Thus, it is no surprise that many fear quitting smoking in early sobriety will only increase these cravings.
A 2003 study published in the journal Addiction, however, found that no incidence of increased cravings was reported amongst test subjects who quit tobacco simultaneously with drugs/alcohol. (2)
Smoking and recovery
Another common fear is that quitting smoking at the same time as quitting drugs or alcohol will threaten an individual’s chances at successfully recovering.
Studies have shown that those who concurrently quit smoking with drugs/alcohol not only did not jeopardize recovery rates, it actually improved them. The study showed that those treated for both tobacco and substance abuse had 37% recovery rates, versus 31% for those treated for alcohol/drugs only. (3)
What effect does smoking have on relapse and long-term recovery?
The belief that smoking is the “lesser of two evils” may not be as true as once thought. Smoking after being discharged from treatment has been cited as a factor for increased risk of relapse by two separate studies. (4) (5)
Another study sought to see the relationship between smoking and those who had left treatment five yeas prior. Overall, the study found that quitting smoking was associated with a reduced-risk of relapse. (6)
So what does this mean?
Simply brushing smoking under the rug while undergoing treatment for addiction simply is not as harmless as we once thought. The reality is, tobacco is a major cause of death each year in the United States, and those in recovery have high rates of tobacco use as mentioned earlier. (7)
Making the decision to quit smoking simultaneously with entering sobriety not only increases our chances of successful recovery, it unquestionably will improve our quality of life.
This article is intended for those considering a new way of life, free of the pain of drug and alcohol addiction. For more information on recovery and anyone seeking help with addiction and substance abuse problems, please call True Recovery at (844) 744-8783 or visit us online.
- McCarthy WJ, Collins C, Hser YI. Does cigarette smoking affect drug abuse treatment? Journal of Drug Issues. 2002;32:61–80.
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