“Before initiating a new opioid prescription, patients should be screened for past or current tobacco use and past or current substance abuse.”
~ Dr. W. Michael Hooten, MD, a Mayo Clinic anesthesiologist.
A new Canadian study has found that when smokers cut back on their daily cigarette total, they also are able to reduce their use of opioids. This is significant because earlier research showed that nearly three-fourths of all long-term opioid users have a personal history of tobacco use.
Researchers in Ottawa worked with participants—primarily from the local homeless population—for six months, providing such anti-smoking services as:
- Peer support
- Mental health counseling
- Nicotine replacement products
- Life skills workshops
By the end of the study, smokers cut their cut their cigarette consumption down from an average of 20 per day to just 9. Of special relevance, approximately 19%—nearly 1 in 5—also reducing their consumption of opioids like Oxycontin, fentanyl, and heroin.
Significantly, over a third reported better “quality of life”, which included:
- Returning to work
- Greater involvement with the community
- Starting drug treatment
- Enrolling in school
Dr. Smita Pakhale, MD, with the American Thoracic Society’s Tobacco Action Committee, says, “(This) patient engagement and tobacco management model, a whole-person strategy, can be used to deal with the growing opioid crisis in North America.”
Smoking and Pain
Part of the reason for the connection between smoking management and decreased opioid consumption might be due to the fact that smokers are at greater risk of chronic pain. For example, among women:
- Daily smokers: Doubled risk
- Occasional smokers: +68%
- Former smokers: +20%
Norwegian researchers found that smokers have a lower tolerance for pain than people who have never smoked. This is significant because a Columbia University study determined that people struggling with pain are 41% more likely to abuse prescription painkillers than those who are pain-free.
The Bottom Line
The implication is clear—smoking can complicate your recovery from opioid addiction. If this is the case in your life, Lasting Recovery outpatient drug rehab in San Diego can give you the structure and support you need.
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