While it’s a necessary and pivotal first step in recovery, the drug and alcohol rehab process can initially be scary and disorienting. Participants experience an abrupt change in their routines, and those who enter residential treatment find themselves in a strange and unfamiliar place, usually away from anyone they know or trust. No matter what adversity an addicted person encountered prior to treatment, entering a program can still be jarring.
Although smoking cigarettes is admittedly one of the worst things a person can do to their body and kills more than 480,000 people per year according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), many patients who are smokers find temporary calm and relaxation from cigarettes while endeavoring to overcome their more immediate drug or alcohol addiction. This is why many incoming addiction treatment patients specifically search for drug and alcohol rehabs that allow cigarettes.
To date, there is no formalized institutional ban on smoking at addiction treatment facilities. Policies governing nicotine consumption during treatment varies from rehab to rehab. Publicly funded treatment organizations may have more stringent rules restricting smoking during treatment because they have to adhere to designated public health guidelines. Private facilities have more flexibility, and many in fact do allow smoking. Prospective patients who feel they need to smoke cigarettes during their treatment can find out each treatment center’s policy from their admissions and intake teams.
Some treatment facilities allow nicotine but don’t allow caffeine, the effects of which are actually magnified by cigarettes, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). The CDC reports that 15.1 percent of American adults continue to smoke cigarettes, many of whom are in recovery from alcohol or other drugs. Data from the American Family Physician indicates that 85 percent of recovering alcoholics smoke and that those who have been in treatment for alcohol problems are more likely to die from tobacco-related diseases than from alcohol-related problems.
Many drug and alcohol treatment facilities may allow patients to smoke during their addiction treatment to cope with the emotional turbulence of the experience. Few if any treatment facilities allow smoking indoors, and it is generally not permitted during actual therapy sessions. Patients who smoke during their addiction treatment program often claim that it calms their nerves and makes dealing with the emotional rigors of recovery easier. Many of these patients are simply trying to hold on to a sense of normalcy amidst the chaos they’re experiencing.
Clinicians have historically been protective of patients’ rights to smoke during treatment because they see it as an effective short-term coping mechanism during the actual treatment program. The conventional wisdom seems to be essentially that “smoking won’t kill you tomorrow, but heroin or meth or even alcohol very well might.” However, some clinicians argue that allowing patients to smoke perpetuates addictive tendencies and can have a deleterious impact on their long-term recovery.
It’s common for smokers to lean on cigarettes in recovery because they feel that trying to tackle another recovery issue can inhibit the progress and send them spiraling into relapse. The reality is that quitting smoking can actually strengthen recovery efforts and keep one further insulated from relapse. The fact of making the decision to seek treatment and take the first step toward recovery is entirely admirable; however, cigarettes represent an imminent threat to your health, recovery, and quality of life. You can achieve total sobriety and reclaim your future from drugs, alcohol, and cigarettes.
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