In 2014 47,055 people died from drug-related overdoses with three quarters of that number being represented by heroin or other opiate users. There is no doubt that we are in the midst of a heroin epidemic; however there is another highly addictive substance that is killing nine times that amount of people. We don’t talk about it because they aren’t sudden deaths and people don’t typically commit crimes to obtain it or lose their children over it. I’m talking about cigarettes and other tobacco products, which kill approximately 437,000 people per year.
The recovery community has ignored nicotine addiction for years justifying smoking with the old excuse that we can’t expect people to quit everything at once. The Healing Place can no longer ignore this considering that smoking kills far more people than illegal drugs or alcohol. More than 80% of the addicted population smokes and nicotine is the ultimate gateway drug. Most individuals with addiction smoke cigarettes long before they take their first drink of alcohol, pill, or hit of marijuana. Nicotine raises dopamine in the brain just like all drugs of reward.
At The Healing Place we always talk about being part of the solution so beginning June 16, 2016 we will become smoke-free for clients and staff with the exception of our detox units. We will not tell clients to quit smoking, but they will no longer be able to use tobacco products on Healing Place property. We will offer smoking cessation classes and nicotine replacements for any client or staff member interested in quitting.
Smoking will still be allowed in our detox units. Detox is a community resource and we want as few barriers as possible to someone walking into our doors. Once an individual is here and the drugs and alcohol are out of their system then they can make a decision about applying for our program. We stopped supplying cigarettes to our detox units on April 4, 2016.
One study showed that overall, 48% of non-tobacco users maintained sobriety at 12 months compared to only 14% of tobacco users. Quitting smoking at the same time as alcohol and other drugs does not increase rates of relapse into non-nicotine chemical use. Addicts/alcoholics in and out of recovery are at high risk for tobacco-related death, greater than 50%.
We have to pay attention to the science and research that has shown for the past twenty years that quitting smoking is good for sobriety. The Healing Place serves over 740 clients each day and I want each one of those individuals to have the best chance at sobriety possible. We believe The Healing Place’s non-smoking policy will greatly increase those chances.
CDC/NCHS, National Vital Statistics System, Mortality File.
Gulliver SB, et. al. Smoking cessation and alcohol abstinence: what do the data tell us? Alcohol Research & Health, 2006; 29(3): 208-12.
Guydish J, et al. An international systematic review of smoking prevalence in addiction treatment. Addiction 2015; doi: 10.1111/add.13099
Stuyt E. Understanding the impact of tobacco on recovery. Circle Program. Colorado Mental Health Institute at Pueblo.
Posted on April 12, 2016
by Laci Comer filed under