The results of a new study have found that people who are in recovery from illicit drug use have a greater chance of success if they are non-smokers. Most people who use illicit drugs also smoke cigarettes; however, many drug treatment programs don’t address the issue of nicotine addiction as part of their clients’ overall treatment plan.

The standard thought in a clinical setting is that asking a client to give up cigarettes as well as their illicit drug of choice is too difficult to do at once. Some clinicians also think that continuing to smoke may help someone in recovery stay away from drugs or alcohol. Tobacco use isn’t related to whether someone is able to refrain from using illicit drugs over a long period of time.

The researchers studied data gathered from more than 34,000 adults who were enrolled in the National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions (NESARC). The participants were assessed at two intervals, three years apart, for

• Substance abuse
• Substance abuse disorders
• Physical and mental health disorders (related)

The researchers found that among those who were using illicit drugs who were smokers at the beginning of the study, 11 percent who were still smoking three years later relapsed. Eight percent of people who had quit smoking had relapsed and 6.5 percent of people in recovery who had never smoked had relapsed, according to the study results.

While it’s common knowledge that quitting smoking will improve one’s overall health, giving up tobacco is even more important for people in recovery. It may be a factor in helping to maintain long-term sobriety.

If further studies show that there is a relationship between smoking and relapsing to using illicit substances among people in recovery, more drug treatment centers will likely start offering smoking cessation as part of their standard treatment.