Smoking Is More Harmful for Recovering Alcoholics

A cigarette and a beer
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The rates of smoking cigarettes among recovering alcoholics is three times that of the national average and research indicates that alcoholics are at greater risk for the negative health effects of smoking than other smokers.

People with mental illness and/or substance use disorders consume 40% of all cigarettes sold in the U.S. Smoking rates of people with alcohol use disorders are between 34% and 80% while rates of people with other substance use disorders are between 49% and 98%.

Greater Health Risks for Alcoholics Who Smoke

Research also shows that because of the damage was done to the body by years of heavy drinking, recovering alcoholics who smoke are at a much greater risk of developing health problems related to smoking—particularly cancer and cardiovascular disease.

In fact, people with an alcohol use disorder who smoke are less likely to die from an alcoholic-related illness than they are a tobacco-related disease. Smokers with an alcohol use disorder have a 51% chance of death, compared to nonsmokers with an alcohol use disorder who have a 34% chance of death.

The Myth That Quitting Will Threaten Your Sobriety

One reason few recovering alcoholics attempt to quit smoking is the belief that the stress of quitting smoking could jeopardize their sobriety. Few treatment centers require their patients to stop drinking and smoking at the same time, mainly because many of the people who work in the treatment industry are smokers themselves. Members of recovery groups are warned by other members to "take one addiction at a time," further perpetuating the myth.

Scientific research, however, tells a different story. Research shows that nicotine can increase the craving for alcohol, especially for those who always drank and smoked at the same time. In fact, continuing to smoke or starting to smoking during recovery from a substance use disorder can increase a person's risk of relapse.

Several studies have found that quitting alcohol and cigarettes at the same time actually enhances the chances of maintaining sobriety.

Most Alcoholics Have Tried to Quit Smoking

Most people in recovery from an alcohol use disorder know they need to quit smoking and want to quit but face extra challenges, including stressful living conditions, low annual household income, and lack of access to health insurance.

Also, many people fail to quit smoking because they try to do it on their own. Rather than using the same tools they used to quit drinking—medical treatment, professional counseling, or support group participation—they try to quit smoking without assistance.

Reasons to Quit Smoking

According to Terry Martin, the Verywell.com Smoking Cessation Expert, the vast majority of people who smoke fervently wish they did not. Quitting is not easy, no doubt about it. But it begins with having the will to quit. Martin provides lists of the benefits of quitting.

Preparing Yourself to Quit

Experts agree that the key to successfully quitting is getting yourself prepared to quit psychologically — understanding the difficulties and preparing yourself to face them. Martin gives several tips on how to get ready to quit.

Get Help for Smoking Cessation

The good news about quitting smoking is that you don't have to do it alone. There are quit smoking aids available to help and a world of support out there to encourage you.

Thousands of people quit smoking every year, leaving their addiction to nicotine behind them and they immediately begin to see the healing process begin within the first 20 minutes of putting down that last cigarette.

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