Recovery is difficult, which is why some people coping with addiction find comfort in smoking cigarettes. While many claim that cigarettes help them with cravings, stress, and anxiety, recent studies show that cigarette smoking hinders recovery rather than aids it.
A study conducted by Columbia University found that smokers were twice as likely as nonsmokers to relapse within three years. A hypothesis behind the increased risk of relapse among smokers is that smoking is often associated with negative behaviors. Those who have smoked while they drank alcohol or consumed drugs in the past have formed a strong association between smoking and their addiction, even if they do not realize it. For many in recovery, smoking can trigger their substance use.
Another study, which was conducted over a period of 24 years, found that the death rate among smokers who were in treatment for opiate addiction was four times higher than that of nonsmokers in treatment. According to Gretchen Hammond, a researcher at Ohio State University, what makes cigarettes so dangerous in recovery is that people behave similarly with a cigarette as they do with a drug. She explains, “For example, if I’m having a bad day I’ll try to smoke it away versus talking to someone or going to therapy and working on the problem.” It is particularly important for those in recovery to deal with the root of their problems. Unfortunately, cigarettes often take the place of alcohol or drugs as a means of avoidance or escape.
In the past, clinicians believed that asking patients to quit smoking during recovery was too difficult. But as new studies continue to link smoking to relapse, opinions in the substance abuse field are starting to shift.