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Is Smoking in Recovery Okay?

woman breaking cigarette in half

While many come to our Mississippi rehab center to quit drinking or stop taking illicit drugs, giving up cigarettes can be an entirely different challenge. In many cases, people in recovery struggle to stop smoking, and in some cases, their smoking habits may even get worse.

Smoking and Recovery from Addiction

By some reports, as much as 97% of people enrolled in treatment for a drug or alcohol use disorder smoke, and many continue to smoke in rehab and after treatment is over. A survey of people in a twelve-week treatment program found that 66% of patients had no change to the number of cigarettes they smoked a day, and 12% of patients actually increased the number of cigarettes they smoked a day.1 While rehab is about quitting substance use, cigarettes are often considered the exception. This thought process may occur for a few different reasons. It is not uncommon for people in recovery to trade one addiction for another. Because they are struggling to fill the void left behind by their drug of choice, they will turn to something else instead. Smoking cigarettes is an easy transition, but quickly becomes another unhealthy and addictive behavior that they struggle to stop. Many people also smoke or do drugs during times of stress or emotional distress. Early recovery can cause high levels of both, so it is common for people to rely on smoking cigarettes since their other drug of choice is no longer an option. Some people in recovery also believe that they wouldn’t be sober if they had to give up cigarettes as well. It would be too much all at once and cigarettes are a means of comfort they rely on.

Quitting Smoking in Addiction Recovery

While it can be tempting to just let it be and continue smoking after rehab, there are several reasons why you should try to quit smoking in addiction recovery. Cigarette smoking is the leading cause of preventable death in the United States.2 For someone who is recovering from years of other substance use, the health risks that come with smoking may be even higher. Because the body is already damaged, smoking could aggravate any health issues. Not only is quitting smoking in recovery better for a person’s physical health, but also it may be better for their mental health. Because some people in recovery have a tendency to develop other addictive behaviors, smoking could become a crutch. When that same person decides to quit smoking in recovery, it can help them rid themselves of unhealthy and addictive behaviors completely and feel free in recovery. One study even found that daily smokers who quit had a reduced risk of mood or anxiety disorders.3 Any addictive behavior has the potential to jeopardize someone’s recovery, but because nicotine is also believed to be a potential gateway drug, smoking cigarettes in recovery may put someone even more at risk. After so much hard work to get clean, it is imperative to try to minimize the risk of relapse. Some people argue that quitting smoking in sobriety is too hard and could put their recovery at risk, but there is some evidence to suggest that the opposite is true. In a survey of daily cigarette smokers, those who quit smoking were 69% less likely to have a continuing or recurrent drug use disorder compared to those who continued to smoke their normal amount. The same was true for alcohol use as quitters were 36% less likely to have a continuing or recurrent alcohol use disorder. Heavier smokers were also more likely to relapse if they were in recovery from a substance use disorder.3 Just like with overcoming other substance use, quitting smoking in recovery can be hard and often requires support. At Woodland Recovery Center Mississippi, we have an IOP substance use program in Southaven that provides support and education for people as they navigate life in early recovery and work toward building a better future. If you are ready to get started or just want to learn more, contact us today.