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Tobacco And Co-Occurring Addictions

Of all the substances out there that people become addicted to, none has had a larger negative effect on people’s health than tobacco.  More people die each year from tobacco related illnesses than most other causes combined.  Click on the graphic to the right (or below if you are on a mobile device) to see the staggering effects of cigarette smoking according to the American Cancer Society.

It is very common for patients dealing with substance use disorder (opioids, stimulants, alcohol) to also have a cigarette (tobacco) addiction.  Treatment usually takes a back seat another addiction being addressed by a physician. This is the wrong approach to take. The medical data is clear – treat both addictions at the same time.  With this method, the patient is more likely to establish a long term recovery from both tobacco and the other substance.

Fortunately, there are several medications available to help address tobacco addiction in controlling nicotine cravings and withdrawal. Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT) is available over the counter in the form of gum, inhalers, and trans-dermal patches.  The use of NRT has been proven time and time again to help patients deal with their tobacco addiction. In addition to NRT, two prescription medications: Buproprion (Zyban), and Varenicline (Chantix) have been shown to help patients quit smoking when combined with NRT or used alone.  

What is the take-home message for you, the patient?  There are effective medications out there to help you quit smoking, and reduce your risk of future health problems.  And remember, addressing both your primary addiction and your cigarette addiction has been proven to be more effective in resulting in long term recovery than tackling one addiction at a time.