Does Smoking Inhibit Recovery?

One of the most common sites to see in a treatment facility is cigarette smoking. Clients and counselors often engage in smoking as a way to temporarily reduce stress, socialize and still feed at least one of their addictions. However, new research is showing that smoking can also be a serious hindrance to maintaining sobriety.

Researchers at Columbia University’s School of Public Health investigated data gathered from 35,000 adults, specifically looking at rate of relapse after treatment. They found that people who smoke before treatment and continue doing so afterward are nearly twice as likely to relapse as non-smokers.

This information is especially interesting because of the current take on smoking in most treatment centers. Since coming off of drugs can be so stressful and patients are often having to work through painful past experiences, smoking is accepted because it is a “lesser” addiction. However, according to this research it can be detrimental.

“If research continues to show a relationship between smoking and relapse to substance use among those in recovery, making tobacco treatment a standard part of treatment for illicit substance use disorders may be a critical service to provide to adults toward improving substance treatment outcomes over the long term,” commented Renee Goodwin, author of the study.

Perhaps some of the indicators of having a compulsive behavior tied to a chemical leaves a pathway open in the brain that makes people more susceptible to relapse. Whereas research into neuroplasticity has shown that the brain can be “re-trained” to create new pathways and behaviors, maintaining an active addiction to nicotine may prevent that re-writing process from occurring.