How Tobacco Influences Addiction

Tobacco and addictionOne of the unique aspects of our residential treatment facility is our attention to helping people break nicotine addictions. While many other treatment organizations freely permit smoking, The Walker Center has made intentional strides to help addicts break free of all substance-related habits, limiting smoking to designated areas and specific times. After years of experience in helping addicts break their chemical dependencies, we found that overlooking their nicotine dependency was detrimental to their overall treatment experience.

How does tobacco use play a role in other substance abuse? Here are some factors to consider about tobacco’s connection to addiction.

Distracting one’s focus

We know from tobacco research that nicotine is anxiety-inducing. Even though smokers might perceive tobacco as a stress reliever, research shows tobacco’s addicting properties actually create more stress for the smoker. The stress levels of smokers are typically higher than nonsmokers, and smoking cessation leads to reduced stress.

Someone going through addiction treatment is already experiencing the stress of withdrawals and the heavy emotions that come with facing their disease. When an addict is frequently using tobacco during treatment, the individual becomes constantly agitated and anxious for the next time they can smoke. The tension and irritability of craving the next cigarette distracts them from getting the most meaning and fulfillment out of their group and individual counseling sessions. Along with residential treatment, research supports that addicts are much more successful in long-term recovery when they stop smoking.

Compounding health risks

As an addict is making changes to develop a healthier lifestyle, continuing to smoke only limits their potential health outcomes. The health risks of tobacco are well-documented. Even as smoking trends have evolved, tobacco-related disease remains the number one cause of preventable death. In the United States, more people are addicted to nicotine than any other drug.

As new kinds of tobacco products have grown in popularity, such as vaping and other smokeless products, health researchers are finding that these trendy solutions can be just as harmful as traditional smoking. For example, e-cigarettes have been found to trigger the same inflammatory responses as cigarettes, along with potential damage to the heart, nervous system, and other areas of the body. People who stop smoking greatly reduce their risk of numerous diseases, including lung disease, stroke, respiratory problems, and cancer.

Increased likelihood of relapsing

A recent health study found that cigarette use increased one’s likelihood of relapsing while in recovery for a substance use disorder (SUD). The study found a correlation between smoking and relapsing: the heavier the smoker, the more likely that person relapsed. The results supported that someone recovering from substance abuse is better off by quitting and abstaining from smoking to improve their chances of avoiding other kinds of drugs.

Along with these findings, tobacco can generally serve as a reminder and trigger for using other substances. Perhaps someone’s previous habits included having a cigarette while they were drinking. While that person is re-learning how to live without drinking, keeping that cigarette available becomes a critical relapse trigger, likely increasing the person’s cravings for alcohol.

Finding help managing triggers

The list of reasons to give up smoking can go on infinitely. The most important takeaway for people in recovery is to recognize that tobacco does not support their sobriety. In order to make lasting changes, an addiction to nicotine has to be addressed.

Are you struggling to stay sober? Along with abstaining from tobacco, find out more information on managing relapse triggers.