Should I Quit Smoking During Addiction Recovery?

Overcoming alcohol or drug addiction is an intimidating challenge for a lot of people. Trying to overcome nicotine addiction at the same time may seem impossible. But you can quit smoking. If you’re committed to overcoming other types of addiction, you should quit smoking too. It’ll make recovery easier, and you’ll feel happier.

Many people try cigarettes before they ever try an illicit drug. Smoking can result in both a physical and a behavioral addiction. Waking up and smoking can become a daily ritual. Leaving a room for a smoke break may be an hourly habit.

But nicotine doesn’t control you. Living in recovery means you’re making a commitment to a healthy life free from addictive substances. Cigarettes and other products containing nicotine provide temporary respite, but the relief masks the long-term damage that they cause.

Reasons to Continue to Smoke

There is only one reason to keep smoking during recovery: to focus on recovering from one drug at a time. If you’re addicted to hard drugs such as cocaine, heroin or crystal meth, you can die or cause permanent brain damage if you overdose.

You should focus on quitting the most dangerous drugs first if you’re unable or unwilling to quit all drugs at the same time. Smoking tobacco or using electronic vaping products is unlikely to cause immediate health problems. Unless you have a serious medical condition, such as asthma, you probably won’t experience life-threatening side effects immediately after smoking.

But it isn’t necessarily easier to quit one drug at a time. Clinicians used to think that, but the studies don’t support that idea, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. That’s why the NIAAA and the American Academy of Family Physicians recommend quitting alcohol and tobacco at the same time.

Reasons to Quit Smoking

The popularity of smoking and the legality of tobacco products may have contributed to the myth that tobacco is less harmful than other drugs. Alcohol and illicit drug abuse may cause immediate short-term harms, but smoking can ruin a person’s health and emotional well-being. It’s difficult to live a happy life in recovery while smoking.

Smoking is Deadly

More people die from smoking cigarettes than deaths caused by illegal drug use, alcohol use, car crashes and firearm-related incidents combined, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Cigarettes may not cause deadly overdoses, but they are the leading cause of preventable death in the United States. Each year, more than 480,000 people die from the long-term impact of cigarette smoking.

Smoking Can Make You Crave Other Drugs

Many people smoke cigarettes while drinking alcohol or using drugs. The brain associates the experiences with one another. Each time you smoke tobacco or use a nicotine product, the brain naturally triggers memories of experiences associated with smoking.

Those memories can trigger cravings for alcohol or other drugs. You don’t have to smoke for the triggers to occur either. Seeing a lighter or ashtray, smelling tobacco or talking about smoking can trigger cravings for other substances of abuse.

You’ll Be Happier

Smoking daily makes the brain rely on nicotine to function normally. When the brain is dependent on nicotine, it goes into withdrawal when you go too long without smoking. If you don’t smoke, you feel angry, frustrated and anxious. You may get a headache or feel dizzy.

When you quit smoking and overcome dependence, you stop feeling those symptoms throughout the day. A 2014 review of 26 studies on adults who quit smoking concluded that people who quit felt less depressed, anxious and stressed. They improved their mood and experienced a higher quality of life.

Recovery Is the Perfect Time

If you can quit drinking alcohol or using drugs, you can quit smoking. Recovery from alcohol or drug addiction is the ideal time to try to quit smoking. If you attend treatment, you’ll be surrounded by medical and social support.

Therapists, nurses and counselors can help you overcome tobacco addiction. You’re already paying them to help you overcome drug addiction. You’ll get more bang for your buck if you can get help for tobacco addiction at the same time. They may also be able to provide you with medications that help you recover from nicotine addiction.

Deciding that it’s time to stop drinking alcohol or using illicit drugs is a big step toward a life in recovery. You’ll feel happier and more productive when you’ve stopped taking the toxic substances. If you keep smoking, you won’t be able to achieve your full potential. But if you work hard and have faith, you can recover from all of your addictions. You’ll be glad that you did.

Medical Disclaimer: aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider.

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