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Addiction Centers Should Think Twice Before Banning Smoking

Trying to get drug addicts to quit drugs and smoking at the same time may drive them out of a program prematurely. Christopher Intagliata reports

It’s not news that tobacco’s bad for your health—nearly half a million Americans die from tobacco-related illnesses every year. And among people who abuse drugs and alcohol, more than three-quarters use tobacco, which means tobacco is still the leading killer of the drug-dependent, not hard drugs.

So instituting a tobacco ban at rehab centers would seem like a no-brainer. But it’s not so clear cut, according to a study of an Ohio center for addiction treatment. The center imposed a smoking ban. And in the following months, the number of users who completed rehab dropped nearly in half. In addition, both smokers and non-smokers stuck with the program for fewer days than they had before the ban. That study appears in the Journal of Social Work Practice in the Addictions. [Gretchen Clark Hammond and Thomas Gregoire, "Breaking Ground in Treating Tobacco Dependence at a Women's Treatment Center"]

The researchers aren’t discouraging treatment centers from trying tobacco bans. Because previous studies do indicate that quitting tobacco and hard drugs at the same time ups the odds patients will stay clean in the long run. But as this study points out, even a well-meaning ban on tobacco may sometimes push away the very people who treatment centers are trying to help.

—Christopher Intagliata

[The above text is an exact transcript of this podcast.]

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