Quitting Smoking May Reduce Risk of Substance Abuse Relapse

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Quitting Smoking May Reduce Risk of Substance Abuse Relapse

Researchers from Columbia University have found that smokers who are in recovery from other addictions are at an increased risk of relapse versus those who do not smoke tobacco.

Investigators examined data from more than 34,600 adults who participated in the National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions (NESARC).

It is true – most adults who have drug addictions also smoke tobacco. And while addiction treatments often require abstinence from alcohol and other illicit substances, the development of goals toward quitting smoking is rarely part of treatment for substance use disorders.

Research leader, Renee Goodwin, Ph.D.:

“The thinking…has been that asking patients to quit cigarette smoking while they try to stop using drugs is “too difficult,” or that smoking may be helpful in remaining abstinent from alcohol and drugs…”

For the research, subjects were assessed at two points in time, three years apart, on substance use, as well as related mental and physical disorders. The first sample included only those with a history of illicit substance use.

Researchers found that smokers and non-daily smokers had around twice the odds of relapsing after three years than non-smokers. This relationship stood even after controlling for demographics and other potentially mitigating factors.

Of those who overcame substance use disorders and were smokers at the study’s onset, 11% who continued to smoke relapsed three years later. Meanwhile, just 8% who had quit smoking and only 6.5% of those who never smoked relapsed by the end of three-year period.

Among original non-smokers, smoking three years later was associated with significantly higher odds of relapse versus those who continued to remain non-smokers.


“Quitting smoking will improve anyone’s health. But our study shows that giving up cigarettes may be even more important for adults in recovery…since it may help them stay sober.”

These findings appear online in The Journal of Clinical Psychiatry.

~ G. Nathalee Serrels, M.A., Psychology

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