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Tuesday, January 17, 2017

People With Mental Illness Want to Quit Smoking

mental health disorders
Only 15 percent of American adults smoke cigarettes, quite a drop from not that long ago. Cigarettes are both addictive and a leading cause of preventable death. While adult smoking rates are at relatively low rates among the general public, the same cannot be said for people with mental health disorders. As many as 57 percent of people living with serious mental illness smoke cigarettes, according to PsychCentral. Highlighting the need for psychiatrists and caseworkers to help people with mental health disorders quit smoking.

A new study found that a large number of psychiatric patients would like to be free from cigarettes, the article reports. However, researchers found that mental health caseworkers don’t prescribe smoking cessation drugs or refer patients to outside resources that could help with quitting.

“Patients with serious mental illness die an average of 25 years younger than people who don’t have these problems, and smoking is a big factor,” said study first-author, Li-Shiun Chen, M.D., an assistant professor of psychiatry at Washington University School of Medicine and BJC Behavioral Health in St. Louis. “Smoking is a common and serious problem for our patients, and although smoking rates have been decreasing in the general population, the rates remain very high in this vulnerable population.”

The researchers surveyed 213 psychiatric patients, of which 82 percent expressed interest in smoking cessation, according to the report. However, only 13 percent were receiving treatment at the time. The lack of encouragement from providers to quit may be the result of a long held belief that mental health patients have "bigger fish to fry" than cigarettes. Yet, new research indicates that quitting smoking can help mitigate the symptoms of mental illness. And for recovering addicts who smoke, quitting can reduce their risk of relapse.

A large population of people in recovery have co-occurring mental health disorders, such as depression or bipolar disorder. If quitting smoking can reduce the recurrence of symptoms and reduce the risk of relapse, mental health care providers could do a lot of good by encouraging smoking cessation, prescribing drugs like Chantix and refer patients to outside services.

“We want the psychiatrists and caseworkers to know whether their patients have expressed a wish to stop smoking so that they can refer them to counseling or provide them with prescriptions for nicotine lozenges, patches, or other medications that may help these patients quit smoking. We think those fairly simple changes really could pay off in a big way.”

The research was published in the Community Mental Health Journal.

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