Although many people are aware of the risks associated with smoking, there are still countless people who struggle with an addiction to nicotine. This is especially true for those in treatment for addiction to illicit substances. The prevalence of smoking is higher in those in treatment for addiction than it is compared to the rest of the population. Studies suggest that this can be attributed to replacing one addiction with another, and while this behavior may be a way to cope with the loss of other substances, it can actually inhibit the recovery process and worsen mental health.

The Link Between Smoking and Mental Health

While the consequences of smoking on physical health are well known, the impact of it on mental health may not be as obvious. Anyone who knows someone who struggles with an addiction to nicotine may be familiar with the mood changes associated with use. When a person begins to experience withdrawal from nicotine, feelings of irritability, sadness, and restlessness are common. While these side effects usually subside within a couple of weeks without use, for some, the feelings linger. This can be due to the presence of a mental health disorder, such as depression, being at the root of use.

Research shows that people with depression are twice as likely to smoke compared to those who do not. In recent years, however, some researchers have even suggested that smoking can lead to the development of depression as well. Smoking can be used as a way to temporarily relieve symptoms of depression, but in actuality, it can worsen them over time. Smoking contributes to poor physical health and mood swings which can exacerbate symptoms of depression.

Everyone struggles with sadness from time to time, but depression is a persistent, lingering condition that does not often improve without treatment. Although prolonged sadness can eventually lead to depression in some cases, sadness and depression are two different things. Depression can be characterized by:

  • Having trouble thinking
  • No longer wanting to do things that once brought joy
  • Having difficulty falling asleep or sleeping too much
  • Feeling tired even after sleeping well
  • Feelings of worthlessness and guilt
  • Being agitated, easily frustrated, or restless
  • Feeling sad all of the time
  • Significant changes in eating habits
  • Having thoughts of self-harm or death

How to Quit Smoking

For those in addiction treatment, smoking can affect the recovery experience. Because smoking can negatively impact mental health, it can increase the risk of relapse. While smoking may develop for a number of reasons including to help a person abstain from using drugs or alcohol, ultimately the habit is a replacement addiction. Giving up cigarettes can help those in recovery stay sober long-term and treating dependency on nicotine alongside other addictions improves recovery outcomes.

Giving up smoking is no easy task. Many people try to quit smoking several times before finally succeeding. While many try the cold-turkey approach to quitting smoking, it is often unsuccessful for most. There are a number of ways to approach quitting smoking and some may be more effective than others. Using a combination of any of the following can improve your successfulness:

  1. Cold turkey: Although this is not the easiest approach to quitting, for some, this technique works. Going cold turkey means stopping use altogether at once. The reason this approach is often unsuccessful is that it does not allow a person to prepare for withdrawal symptoms. Rather than completely stopping use, many people benefit more from gradually cutting back so that they can adjust to withdrawal symptoms and eventually stop smoking altogether.
  2. Medications: A popular method of quitting smoking is the use of medications. Before using this approach, it is important to consult with a doctor or pharmacist to determine if it is the right choice. There are a variety of over-the-counter options that can ease withdrawal symptoms including nicotine gums, patches, and lozenges. There are also several prescribed medications that can be effective as well. This includes nasal sprays, inhalers, and other prescription medications that can block the effects of nicotine on the brain.
  3. Counseling: Counseling is often used in conjunction with medications to help quit smoking. Support groups and one-on-one counseling can help a person develop alternative coping mechanisms for experiences and feelings that trigger smoking. Additionally, counseling can help a person better understand their motivations to smoke so that they may avoid the pitfalls that lead to relapse. Enlisting the help of supportive friends and family members can also help keep a person on track when trying to quit.
  4. Apps: There are a number of apps designed to encourage and motivate those who are quitting smoking. Apps can include features that allow users to set goals, track their progress, and create reminders to help them stay focused. There are also apps that can show users how much money they save and the health benefits they can achieve after hitting specific milestones. Apps also often send encouraging messages and share advice with those trying to quit.

Quitting smoking is no easy task and many people will make multiple attempts before succeeding. Rather than focusing on slip-ups as failures, using these moments as learning experiences to apply to your next attempt can help you succeed. For some, smoking cigarettes in early recovery can help them stay on track but continuing the habit long-term presents risks that are not worth it. Setting a goal to quit smoking along with abstaining from substance abuse can greatly improve your physical and mental health long-term and reduce the risk of relapse.

If you or someone you love is struggling with an addiction to alcohol or drugs or are experiencing mental health issues, Nexus Recovery Services can help. Contact us today to learn about our program of recovery so you can begin your new journey.

If you or someone you know is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, we are here to help. Give us a call at 888.855.6877 or send us a message below and one of our admissions counselors will do their best to get you the help you need.

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