Addiction recovery can be challenging, which is why some people use a variety of coping mechanisms. Some coping mechanisms are healthier than others. For people who smoke cigarettes, there are obvious health hazards associated with smoking, but there is also an additional danger. According to a recent study, smoking cigarettes in recovery could increase the chances of experiencing a setback.

The Prevalence of Smokers in Recovery

The CDC reports that roughly 15.5 percent of adults in the United States smoke cigarettes, which equates to 37.8 million people. Of these, 76.1 percent smoke daily. While anti-smoking campaigns reduced the total number of people who smoke or begin smoking, this does not necessarily carry over into the recovery community.

Among people in recovery from an addiction, there is not much data available, but one study released in 2007 revealed the prevalence of smoking among members of Alcoholics Anonymous in Nashville, Tennessee. Of those surveyed, 56.1 percent were smokers and 78.8 percent of those reported smoking a half a pack a day or more.

Study Reveals Smoking Is Tied to Substance Use Disorders

While many in addiction recovery will claim that cigarette smoking helps them remain sober, there is evidence to the contrary. A study released in the Journal of Clinical Psychology reveals that cigarette smoking is associated with an increased risk of relapse in those with a substance use disorder.

Researchers analyzed the data provided by over 5,500 subjects that responded to two separate national surveys set three years apart. All of the people had a history of substance misuse and were in addiction recovery at the time of the initial survey. Researchers discovered that people who smoked cigarettes and still smoked three years later had a 1.5 times greater chance of experiencing a setback than those who quit smoking.

Of those who did not smoke at the initial interview but started later, there was a five times greater chance of a setback occurring. The odds of relapse increased for those who smoke heavily as opposed to lightly. For each additional cigarette smoked per day, the chance of a relapse went up 0.7 percent.

Why Cigarette Smoking Could be Associated With Relapse

There are several possible reasons why nicotine addiction could be associated with a SUD relapse. The first is that smoking often accompanies drug use and drinking, so cigarettes can act as a relapse trigger or drug cue. The second is that some studies have tied exposure to nicotine with cravings for opioids and stimulants.

While some people believe it is too difficult to give up cigarettes and other addictive substance simultaneously, the truth is that there may be a significant benefit to addressing smoking cessation during addiction treatment.

Related Topic: Nicotine addiction treatment

Medical Disclaimer

The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare providers.