Smoking and the mentally ill

“The lives of people with serious mental illnesses are about 25 years shorter than the rest of the population, on average, and the main causes of early death are tobacco-related diseases.imgres-5

Patients in psychiatric hospitals who take part in smoking cessation programs during their stay are more likely to be smoke-free after 18 months, compared to patients who don’t participate in the programs, says a new study as reported by Reuters today.

“What’s more, researchers found that quitting smoking appeared to be safe for the patients and was tied to a decreased risk of being admitted back into the hospital.

“That’s a new finding and it needs to be replicated, but we’re excited that it didn’t cause any harm and may have supported their recovery,” said Judith Prochaska, the study’s lead author from the Stanford Prevention Research Center in California.

“Prochaska and her colleagues write in the American Journal of Public Health that it’s estimated people with mental illnesses use two to four times more tobacco than the general population. Most U.S. hospitals have been smoke-free since 1993, but at least half of hospital psychiatric units allow smoking and sell cigarettes, according to the researchers. “It used to be that people with mental illnesses had a waiver,” Dr. Steven Schroeder, the Distinguished Professor of Health and Health Care at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), told Reuters Health. Schroeder, who was not involved with the new research, said some people believed psychiatric inpatients were not ready or didn’t want to quit smoking and that giving up smoking might make their conditions worse.

“For the new study, Prochaska and her colleagues recruited smokers between July 2006 and December 2008 from an inpatient psychiatry unit on the UCSF medical school campus. The psychiatric unit was a smoke-free environment, but the researchers write that few smokers were offered or referred for smoking cessation treatment. They recruited 224 patients who had smoked at least five cigarettes per day before their hospitalization, were at least 18 years old and spoke fluent English. The most common psychiatric diagnoses were depression and schizophrenia.”

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