Quitting Smoking Reduces Chances of Hospitalization for Psychiatric Patients

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Psychiatric Patients Who Quit Smoking Less Likely to Be Re-Hospitalized

June 6, 2015 Mental Health

Recent studies are proving that quitting smoking is good for more than your physical health. Research involving psychiatric patients hooked on cigarettes is highlighting the ways in which quitting is good for your mental health, too.

Nicotine is incredibly addictive, and in fact many experts place it in the top five of all addictive substances. Quitting is not easy, but patients in psychiatric wards should be given the benefit of addiction treatment along with mental health care, a new study shows. Researchers from Stanford University’s medical school have found that those patients willing to participate in a smoking cessation program benefited greatly. They were able to quit smoking and were less likely to be re-hospitalized after being released from the psychiatric unit.

Traditionally, psychiatric patients are not encouraged to quit smoking. Cigarettes are more likely to be given out as rewards in psych units, and smoking has long been used as a tool for treatment of mental health conditions. As well as a reward for following through with treatment, cigarettes have been seen as a necessary crutch and a way of coping with stress and other negative emotions. Caregivers even smoke with their patients as a way of establishing a relationship. This means that research into how quitting could help these patients is new and innovative.

The study involved over 200 patients in a locked psychiatric unit. Half were encouraged to stop smoking and were offered tools for quitting. The other half actively participated in a cessation program that included working with an addiction counselor, computer aids and nicotine replacement patches. The program was inexpensive and successful for most patients. Those who quit smoking were less likely to be hospitalized later for their mental illness than those patients who continued to smoke.

Smoking Cessation and Substance Abuse

The study also investigated the impact of the smoking cessation program on substance abuse. The researchers followed up with patients after 12 months to assess the need for re-hospitalization, but also to ask about smoking, drinking and drug use. They found that the patients who had participated in the smoking cessation program and who had quit smoking successfully were less likely to drink and to smoke pot when compared to the control group. Quitting smoking did not impact other types of drug use to any noticeable degree.

Taking cigarettes out of psychiatric care represents a shift in philosophy. The use of smoking in treatment is highly ingrained, and many experts fear that taking away cigarettes would be detrimental for many psychiatric patients. Research into how smoking helps or hinders these patients is extremely limited. The study from Stanford may be the first dedicated research into the topic. Those who conducted the study hope that their work will continue to shed light on this controversial subject.

Although it is just one study, the work of the researchers from Stanford is promising. It shows that not only does taking away smoking not hinder the treatment process, it actually helps patients. Quitting smoking led to fewer instances of hospitalization and lower rates of substance abuse. It’s hard to argue with those facts. We all know that smoking is bad for your body. Now we know it is bad for your mind as well.

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