Quit Smoking Program Aids recovery of patients in mental hospitals

While smoking is on the decline in recent years in this country, one group where it remains endemic is one of the psychiatric patients, who often die prematurely from tobacco-related diseases. Practitioners have long thought that smoking can be a useful tool in therapy; calming patients and helping them cope with stress. They also feared that if the psychiatric patients were asked to quit smoking, it may interfere with treatment.

imagesBut those assumptions are challenged in a new study led by Stanford researchers, which shows that quitting smoking can be beneficial for these patients. Judith Prochaska, PhD, MPH, and colleagues from the University of California, San Francisco found that the quit smoking program in hospitalized psychiatry patients aided their recoveries and reduced the chance that they would be hospitalized for their mental disorders.

“It’s very inexpensive, rapid intervention, which helped patients to stop smoking and offers evidence that it may have helped restore their mental health,” said Prochaska, an associate professor of medicine at Stanford Research Prevention Center.

Michael Fiore, MD, MPH, director of the University Of Wisconsin Center for Tobacco Research and Intervention and a leader in the national policy on the treatment of tobacco, said:

This article by Dr. Prochaska and colleagues provides strong evidence that evidence-based tobacco dependence treatment can significantly increase quit rates among psychiatric inpatients. We know that psychiatric patients are very high rates of smoking and are at great risk of their smoking. Thus, the results are promising to make an important, real-world contribution to the health of these patients.

The researchers have proposed to stop smoking treatment to 224 patients at UCSF’s Langley-Porter Psychiatric Institute, a smoke-free, locked unit for acute care. Half participated in a stop-smoking interventions included a meeting with the consultant, written and electronic materials, and the presence of a 10-week supply of nicotine patches. The other half received usual care – a brochure about the dangers of smoking and information about how to quit.

At the end of 18 months, 20% of those in the treatment group had quit compared to 8% in the control group. Furthermore, it was unexpectedly and surprisingly, that 45% of those in the treatment group were readmitted, compared to 60% in the control group.

“I think that some of the therapeutic contact, who asked for tobacco dependence and support the participants with the main goal of health may have a generalized feeling better about their mental health”, Prochaska said.

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