Should you smoke during addiction recovery? It depends on your ultimate goals. After all, nicotine is addictive. Smoking is also extremely damaging to your health. But if you’re just entering a detoxification and rehabilitation program or recently left a substance misuse facility, should you smoke during addiction recovery? Let’s take a closer look.
The Harm of Tobacco Products
The American Lung Association (ALA) indicates that there are at least 600 ingredients in cigarettes alone that when burned, “create more than 7,000 chemicals.” ALA notes that some of the other chemicals added to tobacco products include:
- Acetone—used nail polish remover
- Ammonia—a powerful household cleaner
- Arsenic—frequently used in rat poison
- Benzene—found in rubber cement and gasoline
- Carbon monoxide—often the byproduct of burning gasoline and kerosene
- Formaldehyde—embalming fluid
- Naphthalene—found in mothballs
- Methanol—a main component in rocket fuel
- Toluene—an ingredient in paint manufacturing
The delivery mechanism doesn’t matter: e-cigarette liquids are manufactured with the same type of chemical as regular cigarettes, cigars, and smokeless tobacco.
NIDA states that the compulsivity to smoke is similar to that of using alcohol and drugs for several reasons, which we provide verbatim:
- The pharmacokinetic properties of nicotine (the way it’s processed by the body), contribute to its addictiveness. When cigarette smoke enters the lungs, nicotine is absorbed rapidly in the blood and delivered quickly to the brain, so that nicotine levels peak within 10 seconds of inhalation.
- However, the acute effects of nicotine also dissipate quickly, along with the associated feelings of reward; this rapid cycle causes the smoker to continue dosing to maintain the drug’s pleasurable effects and prevent withdrawal symptoms.
- Nicotine increases levels of the neurotransmitter dopamine in these reward circuits, which reinforces the behavior of taking the drug.
- Repeated exposure alters these circuits’ sensitivity to dopamine and leads to changes in other brain circuits involved in learning, stress, and self-control.
Should You Smoke During Rehab?
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported in 2023 that approximately 28 million people in the U.S. smoke. Its facts indicate:
- More men (13 out of 100) than women (10 out of 100) smoke.
- “Current cigarette smoking was highest among people aged 25–44 years and 45–64 years. Current cigarette smoking was lowest among people aged 18-24 years,” the agency notes.
- Here’s another interesting point: “current cigarette smoking was higher among adults who regularly had feelings of severe psychological distress than adults who did not.”
While many addiction rehabilitation centers allow it, including Great Oaks, it’s generally not okay to continue smoking during rehabilitation, especially if the overall wellness goal is to address substance use disorder (SUD) or alcohol use disorder (AUD).
However, the approach to smoking cessation during rehab varies based on the specific program and an individual’s needs. Here are a few considerations:
- Prioritizing the primary concern. In certain cases, especially when dealing with severe substance addiction or dual diagnosis, the key focus of rehabilitation is on addressing the most critical issue first. Smoking cessation may be addressed in later stages of the recovery process.
- Managing mood and behavior. Some individuals might use nicotine products to manage their cravings for alcohol and drugs, at least temporarily. Smoking also seems to help many people navigate certain mental health issues—such as anxiety and depression—a bit more effectively so that they’re less likely to struggle with symptoms.
- Adhering to individualized treatment plans. If a person isn’t ready or willing to quit smoking immediately, a phased approach may be taken, with smoking cessation addressed at a later stage as part of their overall continuing care strategy.
Top 5 Reasons Why Smoking is Bad for You
There’s really no way to sugarcoat this point: smoking causes great harm to your health. Here’s why.
- A greater cancer risk. Smoking is a leading cause of various types of cancer, including lung, throat, mouth, esophagus, pancreas, bladder, and cervix. The harmful chemicals in tobacco smoke can damage DNA and increase the risk of cancer development. NIDA indicates that “at least 69 chemicals in tobacco smoke are carcinogenic, and cigarette smoking accounts for at least 30 percent of all cancer deaths. The overall rates of death from cancer are twice as high among smokers as nonsmokers, with heavy smokers having a four times greater risk of death from cancer than nonsmokers.”
2. Complicated respiratory issues. Smoking damages the lungs and airways, leading to respiratory conditions such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, emphysema, and chronic bronchitis. It can also worsen asthma symptoms. Additionally, the CDC reports that “there’s no safe level of exposure to secondhand smoke.”
- Threat of cardiovascular diseases. Smoking is a major risk factor for heart disease and stroke. It increases blood pressure, damages blood vessels, and contributes to the formation of blood clots.
- Reduced immune function. Similar to drugs and alcohol, the chemicals in tobacco products make it harder for the body to fight off infections and illnesses. Smokers are more susceptible to respiratory infections, flu, and other diseases.
- Premature aging: This habit also accelerates the aging process by reducing the elasticity of the skin, causing premature wrinkling and skin damage.
Ultimately, it’s vital for your health to stop smoking at some point. Using your access to focused care during rehab can help.
Great Oaks: Helping Heal All Forms of Addiction
The policy at Great Oaks Recovery Center outside of Houston, Texas is not to deny a client’s entry into treatment because of the use of nicotine but to address this as an addictive issue. Part of any successful addiction rehabilitation continuing care plan is to identify how to create a more meaningful future. Our board-certified professionals present you with numerous techniques and therapeutic tools to help live healthfully