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Kicking the habit finds a receptive audience in treatment

Including tobacco in substance use disorder treatment improved outcomes for participants


February 5, 2020

A pilot study conducted by the Minnesota Department of Human Services has demonstrated the value of including nicotine treatment as part of treatment for substance use disorders. Not only can it reduce nicotine dependence, it can improve overall outcomes for people in substance use disorder treatment.

Although the smoking rate has been declining overall, rates are still very high among people in SUD treatment. The Minnesota Department of Health reports that in 2018 14% of the state’s adults smoke, compared with 77% of adults in SUD treatment. Nicotine treatment traditionally has not been included as part of SUD treatment, even though tobacco-related illnesses claim more than eight times as many lives as alcohol and drug use combined.

DHS conducted its nicotine treatment pilot study at three substance use disorder treatment programs. The goal was for the programs to treat their clients’ nicotine dependence as they would any other chemical addiction.

The study found:

• 11% of people in the pilot study stopped smoking

• Almost seven in 10 showed measured improvement in the severity of their substance use disorder

• People in the pilot were more likely to complete substance use disorder treatment.

“By providing people in substance use disorder treatment with nicotine treatment, programs are able to promote the health and recovery from all addictions,” said Human Services Commissioner Jodi Harpstead. “Treatment providers are in the perfect position to talk about making the changes needed to live a healthy life.”

The treatment programs that participated in the pilot were CentraCare/Recovery Plus in St. Cloud and Park Avenue Center and Wayside Recovery Center in Minneapolis. The nicotine treatment they offered included counseling sessions and individual treatment plans. They also provided nicotine patches, gum, lozenges and medications to help people stop smoking. The pilot ran from February 2018 through June 2019.

Since the pilot, CentraCare/Recovery Plus went smoke-free in November, and Wayside Recovery Center has been working toward making its facilities smoke-free. All three sites continue to offer nicotine treatment as a part of their SUD treatment programming.


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