Teen Nicotine Addiction Should Be As Important As Drug and Alcohol Abuse


Nicotine addiction can be extremely difficult to beat, a habit that often takes years to overcome. While cigarettes are legal for adults, more and more research indicates that smoking can make recovering from substance abuse much more difficult. In the United States, addiction treatment facilities take a number of different stances regarding tobacco use, such as:

  • Requiring Abstinence
  • Recommending Smoking Cessation Therapies
  • Client Preference

There are many in the field of addiction who believe that when someone enters treatment for drug and alcohol abuse, the primary focus should be drugs and alcohol; addressing tobacco use is important, but it can wait if need be. However, nicotine is a mind altering chemical, which research indicates can increase the risk of relapse on a person’s drug of choice. So it stands to reason that nicotine addiction should be of the utmost importance when helping others begin the journey of recovery.

New research conducted at the University of Georgia indicates that teenage nicotine addiction should be treated as seriously as drug or alcohol addiction, Newswise reports. The researchers involved in the study found that only minor number of addiction counselors at treatment centers for teenagers effectuate various forms of tobacco cessation treatments.

Lead author Jessica Muilenburg points out that tobacco addiction in teens can be overlooked by addiction counselors because nicotine addictions is not stigmatized in the same way as drug and alcohol abuse. Nevertheless, failing to address tobacco addiction among teens who are struggling with drugs and alcohol can be dangerous. Muilenburg says that most teen addiction counselors do not realize that tobacco “changes the chemistry of your brain and makes you crave whatever your drug of choice is, which is why kicking the tobacco habit with the rest of your addictions is important.”

The findings come from a review of 22 adolescent addiction treatment centers, according to the article. Even though counselors are aware that they should offer smoking cessation therapies to their clients, they typically do not despite being in a position to offer gums and patches.

“Their primary goal is getting them off of alcohol and other drugs, but if we can get them off of all drugs, including tobacco, it will be more beneficial for them in the future,” said Muilenburg. “It’s a drug, but it’s not treated in the same capacity and with the same urgency as other drugs. We are saying to treat it with the same urgency, because relapse is less likely if you treat the nicotine as well.” 

The research was published in the Journal of Adolescent Health.

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