Recovery and Tobacco Addiction: Rehab for Smokers

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By Michael V. Burke, EdD,  Mayo Clinic

Nicotine Dependence Center Program Coordinator Mayo Clinic offers an intensive eight-day residential treatment program tailored specifically to those who want to kick their tobacco addiction. The research-based program is led by Mayo Clinic researchers and doctors who consider all aspects of your condition to provide exactly the care you need.

A disproportionate number of people, who are in recovery from alcoholism or other addictions, continue to be addicted to cigarettes. And tobacco addiction claims the lives of too many people going through recovery. A study done by Richard Hurt, M.D., emeritus director of the Nicotine Dependence Center at Mayo Clinic tracked the health records and mortality of people who had been through treatment for alcoholism. As you might expect, mortality among people who completed treatment was higher than expected. The cause of death though, for more than half of those who died, was tobacco, not alcohol or other drugs.

Unfortunately, drug and alcohol treatment programs too often fail to provide support for people who also want to stop smoking. Many treatment programs are putting plans in place to better address tobacco along with other drugs, and they should be commended. But, progress is slow. Treatment providers may fear that people will relapse if they also stop smoking. However, to the contrary, the evidence is that people who stop smoking early in recovery are less likely to relapse to their drug of choice, and more likely to be satisfied with their recovery.

Another myth that may be slowing progress in integrating tobacco treatment into addiction treatment programs is that stopping smoking increases stress, anxiety or depression. But, again, the evidence suggests just the opposite. Studies that measure these before and after stopping smoking findthat stopping smoking reduces anxiety and depression possibly as much as anti-depressants. Similarly, physical measures of stress show that stress levels go down once a person stops smoking.

Many people don’t realize that there are treatment programs specifically targeted for tobacco dependence. Currently there are two in the United States: Mayo Clinic Nicotine Dependence Center Eight-Day Residential Treatment Program in Rochester, Minnesota, and another on the west coast. Both programs have high success rates with treating tobacco addiction through counseling, education, group support and medications. For smokers who have tried everything, programs like this can really work.

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