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Everyone knows that using tobacco is bad for you. Yet in the alcohol and drug addiction treatment arena, helping individuals quit smoking has traditionally been a low priority4. This creates a disparity for individuals beginning their recovery journey. Studies show that smoking is highly prevalent among people in treatment for substance use disorders, with most studies finding rates between 65-85 percent among patients in addiction treatment.3 As a result, clients in substance abuse treatment are at a higher risk for tobacco-related health issues.

There are several widespread myths when it comes to addictions treatment and smoking cessation:

There are several widespread myths when it comes to addictions treatment and smoking cessation:

  1. Individuals in treatment do not want to quit smoking. This belief that clients do not want to stop is challenged by recent surveys finding most clients entering drug treatment do express an interest in quitting smoking when asked.1
  2. Individuals in treatment would not be able to quit smoking if they tried. On the contrary, evidence supports that smoking cessation interventions can be effective at increasing short-term quit rates in people with substance use disorders.1
  3. Individuals in treatment may relapse with another substance if they quit smoking. Studies have shown that treating multiple addictions at once does not seem to make recovery more difficult and, in fact, cigarette smoking increased the likelihood of relapse among people in recovery from substance use disorder.2

Understanding how nicotine interfaces with chemicals in the brain can be key to understanding the benefits to addressing multiple addictions at one time. Nicotine, the addictive substance in tobacco products, passes to the brain in under 7 seconds.3 Nicotine stimulates the brain’s reward center which means that it reinforces specific behaviors that are beneficial for survival. Dr. Heather Kimmel, Health Scientist Administrator of NIDA’s Epidemiology Research Branch explains that even though various substances have different pharmacological mechanisms, all drugs of abuse ultimately affect the same reward pathway. Abstinence from all of them will help the individual move to a new physiological state and, hopefully, a new mental state as well.2

Help quitting tobacco is free! Gulfcoast South Area Health Education Center (GSAHEC), as part of the Tobacco Free Florida AHEC Cessation Program—offers free tobacco cessation sessions that are available to help someone quit all forms of tobacco.  These group cessation sessions, held virtually and in-person, provide information about the effects of tobacco use, the benefits of quitting, and will assist you with developing your own customized quit plan. Free nicotine replacement therapy in the form of patches, gum or lozenges (if medically appropriate and while supplies last) are provided with the session. Attendees will also receive a participant workbook, quit kit materials, and follow up support from a trained tobacco treatment specialist. Contact us today at 866-534-7909 or visit our page to schedule a class or learn more about the program!



1 Mythbusters: One addiction at a time? NZ Drug Foundation – At the heart of the matter. (n.d.). https://www.drugfoundation.org.nz/matters-of-substance/archive/may-2007/one-addiction-at-a-time/.

2 National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2021, May 10). Cigarette smoking increases the likelihood of drug use relapse. National Institute on Drug Abuse. https://www.drugabuse.gov/news-events/nida-notes/2018/05/cigarette-smoking-increases-likelihood-drug-use-relapse.

3National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2021, April 12). Do people with mental illness and substance use disorders use tobacco more often? National Institute on Drug Abuse. https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/research-reports/tobacco-nicotine-e-cigarettes/do-people-mental-illness-substance-use-disorders-use-tobacco-more-often.

4 Why giving up cigarettes in recovery is good for you. Positive Sobriety Institute. (2018, July 27). https://www.positivesobrietyinstitute.com/quitting-time-giving-cigarettes-recovery-good/.