National Alliance on Mental Illness
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(800) 950-NAMI; email@example.com
Smoking Cessation and Addressing Alcohol & Drug Addiction
Smoking and Mental Illness
People living with mental illness have a very high rate of smoking. A study by The Journal of the American Medical Association reported that 44.3 percent of all cigarettes in America are consumed by individuals who live with mental illness and/or substance abuse disorders. This means that people living with mental illness are about twice as likely to smoke as other persons.
A positive note is that people who live with mental illness had substantial quit-rates, which were almost as high as the group without mental illness. NAMI has led many changes in our mental health system—getting access to the tools to quit smoking is a way to improve the quality and quantity of life. Improving lives is a new advocacy pursuit.
Substance Abuse/Co-occurring Disorders
According to the Journal of the American Medical Association, approximately 50 percent of individuals diagnosed with severe mental illness are affected by substance abuse. About 37 percent of individuals with alcoholism and 53 percent of individuals with drug addictions have at least one serious mental illness.
Individuals living with mental illness are sensitive to the effects of alcohol and other drugs. In some cases, a person diagnosed with mental illness uses drugs to self-medicate or manage certain symptoms. Self-medication is counterproductive in the long-term, even if the substance abuse helps a person change how they feel in the present.
It is sometimes hard to know which came first─the mental illness or the substance abuse. Historically, the substance abuse treatment system and the mental health care system have had difficulty helping people manage both problems at the same time. There are steps you can take to become your own medical self-advocate if coordinated care is lacking. (Link to medical self advocacy section). Additionally, there is evidence of advocacy efforts (http://www.zialogic.org/CCISC.htm), improved cultural policy and the design of clinical models to help the systems work better together.
Goal Setting Worksheet (PDF)
I have been smoke-free for more than a year now, but for 50 years I was a pack-a-day smoker. I spent nearly five years trying substitutes and medicines -- the nicotine gum, a nasal spray from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), Chantix, the patch -- you name it. Some made me sick to my stomach and the patch wouldn't stay stuck to my skin.
I quit cold turkey three times, but it never lasted. At one point, I was hospitalized for an operation and I set a goal of going two days without a cigarette at all. I failed. When I got home I wanted to prove to myself I could stop. I realized if a cigarette was getting in the way of daily life I could just put it out, so I kept it to two puffs; however I only inhaled the first puff.
I said to myself, "That's not smoking! You don't smoke!" and that was it. Now I can taste food better and climb stairs better, and I enjoy taking deeper breaths wherever I go. I hope no one else needs surgery to finally quit smoking; when I think back, I'm just grateful that I've stopped.