Study Finds 8 out of 10 People in Addiction Treatment Smoke

By Zachary Siegel 09/29/15

People in addiction treatment smoke at a rate more than double of the general population.

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Smoking rates among people in addiction treatment are more than double those of people in the general population, according to a recent study published in the journal Addiction.

To arrive at these results, researchers at University of California in San Francisco reviewed 54 tobacco prevalence studies totaling a sample of more than 37,000 people in addiction treatment. While only 31% of the general population smokes tobacco, 84% of people in addiction treatment do.

"When people come into treatment for drugs and alcohol, we are not treating another addiction that has a significant chance of eventually killing them, which is tobacco use," study leader Joseph Guydish, a professor of medicine and health policy at UCSF, said in a press release.

Because of the staggering number of people seeking treatment who smoke he said, “Our addiction-treatment efforts should address smoking and tobacco use better than they do now."

The present study consisted of people across 20 different countries, not including the United States. Professor Guydish and colleagues found in a separate study that smoking rates among American’s seeking addiction treatment was about 76%.

"Every person who enters substance abuse treatment ought to have their tobacco use evaluated and treated," Guydish said. "If they don't want to be treated and quit right away, they should have some education to help them think more about quitting."

In the press release, Guydish noted that numerous studies "strongly suggest" that addressing patients' smoking can improve outcomes of their substance abuse treatment. "That's what we should be doing," Guydish said.

Ironically, it is not the drug in which you’re seeking treatment that will kill you, it’s tobacco.

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Zachary Siegel is a freelance journalist specializing in science, health and drug policy. His reporting has also appeared in Slate, The Daily Beast, Salon, Huffington Post, among others. He writes often about addiction, sometimes drawing from his own experience. You can find out more about Zachary on Linkedin or follow him on Twitter.