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Alcohol And Drug Rehab Centers Will Treat Cigarette Smoking If New Law Passes
By Rod MacTaggart
New York could become the first state requiring all outpatient addiction treatment programs to help their clients quit smoking under proposed legislation. The law would only encourage alcoholics and drug addicts to quit smoking, not require it. Those who agree to quit smoking would be provided with treatment including drugs to relieve cravings, while patients who refuse to quit could still be treated for other addictions as long as they don’t smoke in the treatment facilities. The ban would also apply to treatment center workers. Whether this will increase the success rates of alcohol and drug rehab is in dispute.
New Jersey has required residential addiction programs to treat nicotine addiction and be smoke-free since 2001, but officials in New York say it would be the first state to require smoking cessation efforts in outpatient programs, which account for two-thirds of the 1,100 treatment alcohol and drug rehab programs in the state. Programs in New York that fail to comply with the smoking regulations could lose state certification and would have to stop treating clients.
It has generally been thought that asking patients to quit smoking while fighting addictions to alcohol or drugs like heroin or cocaine is asking too much. But state officials say a deeper understanding about addiction “triggers” and the dangers of tobacco itself have changed the consensus. Karen M. Carpenter-Palumbo, the commissioner of the substance abuse agency that oversees all state-sanctioned alcohol and drug rehab facilities, said in a written statement, “We now know that’s not true. Including tobacco dependence while treating other addictions actually leads to higher recovery success rates. We need to focus on the overall wellness of our patients and not ignore this deadly addiction.”
However, the higher recovery success rates Carpenter-Palumbo refers to are disputed in the scientific community. One recent study from the University of Minnesota found that recovery rates are actually lower if patients are weaned off cigarettes while they are trying to break free of alcohol or drugs. And according to Dr. Richard Hurt, the director of the Nicotine Dependence Center at the Mayo Clinic, most studies have shown that treating nicotine addiction along with alcohol and drug addiction has no effect on treatment effectiveness.
According to the U.S. National Institute against Alcohol Abuse (NIAAA), between 80 and 95 per cent of alcoholics smoke cigarettes – three times higher than among the general population. And a recent Research Society on Alcoholism study using advanced magnetic resonance imaging on human brains found that cigarette smoking not only worsens alcohol-induced brain damage (which was already known) it also causes brain damage by itself. And there are strong links between some forms of cancer and the combination of drinking and smoking.
So it seems uncertain at this point if quitting smoking will help alcohol and drug abusers recover from their addictions and stay clean after completing alcohol or drug rehab. But even if only for the improvements in long-term mental and physical health, it seems to be a good idea to try quitting smoking while recovering from addiction at an alcohol or drug rehab center.
Rod is a Florida based freelance writer who contributes articles on health.
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