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Tobacco Cessation and Mental Illness

Posted May 24 2010 6:42am
Why do people fighting against schizophrenia die so much earlier than the population at large? The answer may surprise you. And it’s related to tobacco cessation.

In a study published this month in the journal Addiction, researchers have determined that treatment for smoking dependence is as effective among people with severe mental illnesses as it is for the general population. Historically, the problem has been that many in the medical community have opted not to treat tobacco addiction in this population for fear of worsening their patients’ mental health. However, this study concluded that offering such treatments does not appear to cause deterioration in mental health. It also found that pharmaceutical and behavioral treatments doubled the probability of quitting among these patients, whose smoking rates are two to three times higher than average.

Professor Simon Gilbody from the University of York & Hull York Medical School, who co-authored the review, commented that “schizophrenia is a devastating condition which causes people to die 25 years earlier than the rest of the population. This is a huge health inequality, and it is largely due to smoking-related illness rather than schizophrenia itself.”

Dr Lindsay Banham, who led the review, added “what this review suggests is that quit-smoking treatments like nicotine replacement therapy may work just as well for people with disorders like schizophrenia. Smoking by those with severe mental illness has largely been ignored and people with schizophrenia are not consistently offered treatment or services. We found evidence that smoking cessation treatments are effective and safe. We hope our research leads to better services for this neglected population.”

David A. Zauche
Senior Program Officer
Partnership for Prevention
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