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Feb 13

Caroline Cassels
February 13, 2014
Far from the conventional wisdom that it is better to overlook psychiatric patients’ smoking in favor of treating the predominant mental illness first, 2 new studies suggest that reducing cigarette consumption or butting out altogether is significantly linked to improved mental health outcomes.

“Clinicians tend to treat the depression, alcohol dependence, or drug problem first and allow patients to ‘self-medicate’ with cigarettes if necessary. The assumption is that psychiatric problems are more challenging to treat, that quitting smoking may interfere with treatment,” lead investigator Patricia A. Cavazos-Rehg, PhD, Washington School of Medicine in St. Louis, Missouri, said in a statement.

However, the investigators found that quitting or reducing the daily number of cigarettes smoked was linked to lower risk for mood disorders as well as drug and alcohol abuse.

“We don’t know if their mental health improves first and then they are motivated to quit smoking or if quitting smoking leads to an improvement in mental health. But either way, our findings show a strong link between quitting and a better psychiatric outlook,” said Dr. Cavazos-Rehg.

The study was published online February 12 in Psychological Medicine.

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