Study finds that transitioning patients from smoking to vaping can increase their lives by decades
In a 2007 paper in the Schizophrenia Bulletin revealed that “Big Tobacco” was not only marketing their products specifically to people with mental illnesses but also they had lobbied, successfully, to make sure psychiatric hospitals were exempt from smoking bans. For many years it has been recorded and discussed that persons with mental illnesses have been much more likely to smoke. But a study published by SLaM (South London and Maudsley) National Health Service Foundation Trust, found that by converting psychiatric hospitals to a non-smoking environment and transitioning smoking patients to vaping, patients were able to reap many health benefits that come with quitting tobacco use in and outside of mental health facilities.
Mental Illness and Smoking
Every year in America 200,000 people with mental illnesses die due to diseases directly related to smoking. According to NAMI (the National Alliance on Mental Illness) and the APA (the American Psychological Association) this population is not only 70% more likely to smoke, but also very likely to smoke a lot more than persons without any mental illnesses. One stat even said that over 43% of all cigarettes smoked are smoked by someone suffering from mental illness.
On average people with mental illnesses die 20 to 25 years earlier than people without mental illnesses, and the most common causes are smoking-related: many different types of cancer, heart disease, lung disease, and a collection of other diseases, illnesses, and symptoms. Some patients, depending on their medications, are at more risk of contracting these diseases. For example, individuals that need second-generation antipsychotics are already at a higher risk for heart disease, and smoking can drastically increase those chances.
The Challenges with Quitting
While conventional wisdom, and all medical statistics, say “They should quit smoking” quitting is not easy. Quitting in these populations often proves much more difficult than stopping as a person without a mental illness. First and foremost, this is because smoking has become so ingrained as a part of mental health services. Some hospitals have begun going through the process of banning smoking, but it is still allowed many places where there are in and outpatient services. Because of this indoctrination, there are many misconceptions that tobacco is a good alleviator for various stresses of mental illnesses and that it can help manage symptoms of the diseases and side effects of medications that people are coping with. In many ways that is because nicotine offers calm and focus, two things many people with a mental illnesses lack. However many of the other chemicals can cause increased likeliness of depression, and affect brain chemistry in ways that sometimes can disguise themselves as a part of the illness they are already fighting.
When quitting cold turkey, it was found that withdrawal symptoms, like an elevated heart rate, can easily trigger episodes and panic attacks among patients. Additionally, the act of smoking changes the way the body metabolizes medications, meaning that drastically altering intake can have adverse effects on a patient’s ability to go about their day normally. These factors along with the standard stresses of life and the more exacerbated stresses of living with mental illness make it more difficult to quit smoking tobacco.
Vaping and Mental Illness
What SLaM found in their study was that by making the environments restrictive against smoking, and encouraging vaping, more of their patients were able to quit tobacco. They were able to do it with fewer episodes and fewer outbursts of physical violence as well. Using vaping as a tool also made it much easier to monitor dosage levels for patients. The APA found that in an outpatient environment which encourages vaping over smoking were more likely to help patients quit and more likely to remain off of tobacco products long term.
The APA also sites that patients who quit in their 40’s-50’s potentially increase their lifespan by about five years and that quitting before the age of 35 would increase a person’s life by decades. Additionally with the decrease of tar in their system, patient’s livers are better able to metabolize medications, meaning that patients can often be transitioned down to a lower dosage of meds, which can also help with side effects and health risks.
What these studies show is that using vaping as a tool to help people with mental illnesses quit smoking tobacco products is not only viable but also very beneficial to patients, doctors and staff alike. Both in and outside of mental health facilities, shifting the use of tobacco to vaping could expand patients life spans and assist them in their day to day lives without making drastic changes to their lifestyles or their mental well being.
Do you agree that vaping should be used to replace smoking in mental health facilities? Why do you think smoking rates among mental health patients is so high? How can we help make standards like this the norm? Let us know what you think in the comments, and don’t forget to check back here or join our Facebook and Twitter