Quitting or reducing smoking shown to improve outcomes for people seeking treatment for alcohol and drug addiction

14 Sep 2020

An Australian study conducted by Turning Point, Monash University and the National Drug Research Institute has found that people who stop smoking are more likely to have successful outcomes, including reductions in substance use and substance dependence, when seeking treatment for addiction.

Researchers found a 30 percent increase in treatment success amongst those who successfully quit smoking at 12-months and a 21 percent decrease in the severity of drug or alcohol dependence. 

Approximately 84 percent of people who seek treatment for addiction also smoke, with cigarettes often triggering alcohol or drug use. However, current addiction treatment often overlooks the need for smoking cessation support to be incorporated into treatment plans.

“The findings contradict the ‘conventional wisdom’ that quitting smoking at the same time as other substances will worsen clients’ treatment outcomes” says Hugh Piercy who analysed the findings from the ‘Patient Pathway’ study.

This is despite the fact that the majority of smokers seeking treatment for drug or alcohol problems expressed concerns about their cigarette use and indicated a desire to quit.

Of the 559 participants recruited for the study, 43.5 percent identified alcohol as their drug of concern, 20.7 percent amphetamines, 17 percent opioids, 16.7 percent cannabis and 2.2 percent other. Researchers conducted participant interviews at the commencement of the study and at 12-months and assessed participants’ alcohol and drug use over a 30-day period, with 377 participants completing the follow up.

While only a small number of participants were successful in actually quitting smoking, the study is consistent with previous research that suggests quitting smoking is associated with improved outcomes in addiction treatment.

“There are the obvious health benefits that come with quitting smoking, which may drive people to want to reduce their substance use and dependence, and when you eliminate triggers like cigarettes it can help reduce the urge to simultaneously drink or take drugs,” said Hugh.

Smokers in alcohol and drug treatment are more likely to die from smoking-related diseases than those related to their primary drug of concern. Given the improved treatment outcomes observed among those who quit smoking, smoking cessation support should be widely promoted in addiction treatment settings.

The findings have been published in Drug and Alcohol Review.