Mental health, smoking link is an eye-opener

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

A recent news release from the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services was an eye-opener, but we may have to disagree with the conclusion.

The release cited a study of the relationship between smoking and mental illness conducted by the University of California.

According to the study:

* 44 percent of all cigarettes produced in the United States are smoked by people with mental illnesses.

* Nearly 50 percent (200,000) of the 435,000 tobacco-related deaths in the United States each year are among people with mental illness diagnoses.

* Compared to the general population, smoking is more common among people with mental health diagnoses. For example, 70 percent of people with bipolar disorder smoke; 60 percent of people with major depression or post traumatic stress disorder smoke, and of people with schizophrenia, 90 percent smoke.

"The statistics about the health of people with mental illnesses are daunting and show that on average, these individuals die 25 years earlier than the general population," said Carol Coussons de Reyes, administrator of the DHHS Office of Consumer Affairs. "Many of the years lost are due to smoking-related diseases and other preventable causes of illness and death."

The release goes on to point out that Nebraskans have 24/7, free access to counseling and support services through the toll-free Nebraska Tobacco Quitline at (800) QUIT-NOW [(800) 784-8669]. Calls are answered by the American Cancer Society and give a choice of services such as telephone counseling, self-help materials, referrals to community programs or a combination thereof.

We agree that it's good the stop-smoking help is available.

But it's a chicken-or-egg question. It seems to us it is a mistake to concentrate on the smoking when an underlying mental condition is the cause. Deal with the mental illness effectively, and it's more likely the smoking will go away on its own.

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  • The driving force of addictive behavior is a loss of sensitivity and receptivity of dopamine, the feel-good neurotransmitter. The condition is called "Reward Deficiency Syndrome". The cigarettes and all addictive behaviors are attempts to produce a "dopamine fix". Dopamine resistance is foundational to many disorders such as ADHD, OCD, many types of depression, alcoholism and all other substance abuses, sugar & carb bingeing, gambling, internet gaming, etc. etc. The only effective long term remedy is to deal with the dopamine need. After many years, the overwhelming evidence is that behavioral counseling has been ineffective. Even the 12 step program ends up trading one addiction (alcohol) for another...sugar.

    -- Posted by billldowns on Wed, Nov 25, 2009, at 7:41 AM
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