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What is the Effect of Cigarette Smoking on Opioid Addiction?

According to the Centers for Disease Control, an estimated 34.2 million adults in the U.S. smoke cigarettes.

Aside from causing a variety of physical health issues, including numerous varieties of cancer, heart disease, stroke, lung disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), is it possible that cigarette smoking is a “gateway drug?”

Research indicates that cigarette smoking appears to be a predictor of opioid abuse.

Why is there a connection between these two drugs?

Opioids are a highly-addictive category of drugs derived from opium, naturally found in poppy seeds and poppy plants.

It is known to help ease physical pain and can result in a euphoric sensation.

This type of drug is frequently used in medical settings, though they are also commonly sold and abused as street drugs.

In 2017, there were nearly 58 opioid prescriptions written for every 100 Americans.

Furthermore, estimates suggest that over 2 million Americans abuse opioids and that more than 90 Americans die from opioid overdose daily.

Some of the most abused opioids include:

  • Codeine
  • Heroin
  • Morphine
  • Hydromorphone
  • Fentanyl
  • Methadone
  • Hydrocodone/Dihydrocodeinone
  • Oxycodone
  • Dilaudid
  • Demerol
  • Vicodin
  • Meperidine
  • Oxymorphone

While smoking can be a predictor of this behavior, it also appears that smoking and opioid addiction form a cyclical, reinforcing relationship.

Studies have shown that as many as 92% of those struggling with opioid addiction smoke.

Research suggests that the higher likelihood of smokers experiencing chronic pain can be a factor in this cycle of addiction, and the fact that nicotine and opioids may cause similar interactions within the brain.

As a result, cigarette smoking and opioid addiction should be managed together, within a professional treatment context.

Are you struggling with cigarette smoking and opioid addiction?

BriteLife Recovery can help you break the cycle of addiction and find lasting freedom from substance use disorders.

Effects of Cigarette Smoking on Opioid Addiction

Opioids work by binding to specific receptors in the brain and blocking pain sensations while triggering the body’s dopamine release response.

Dopamine is a neurotransmitter and hormone released by the body as a reward after positive behaviors.

This chemical release leads us to want to engage in more of those activities.

Unfortunately, when connected to a drug, this chemical reward response can lead to addiction when connected to a drug, even when these drugs are taken as prescribed.

As the body grows more tolerant of the drug, it takes more of the opioid to produce the same effect, causing the individual to take more of the drug than prescribed.

Furthermore, once addiction begins, withdrawal becomes unavoidable with any attempt to stop taking the opioid drug.

Withdrawal symptoms can be excruciating. These can include anxiety, irritability, insomnia, muscle aches, congestion, nausea, vomiting, abdominal cramping, reduced immune response, greater sensitivity to pain, reduced respiratory activity, psychomotor impairment, liver damage, and possible death.

With these symptoms in mind, it is easy to assume that opioid addiction is an addiction that is crucial to treat in a timely manner and that treating nicotine addiction can wait until later.

This is a myth.

Since nicotine and opioids create many of the same effects on the body and mind, these addictions reinforce and perpetuate each other.

As a result, seeking rehabilitation from opioids while continuing to smoke will only enhance cravings for opioid drugs.

Furthermore, even though smoking is legal, it is also a dangerous activity.

Cigarette smoking is still the number one cause of preventable death and disease in the United States. Many substance addicts who also smoke, die of smoking-related illnesses before the fatal effects of their other addiction.

Additionally, withdrawal from nicotine can be very severe and painful without assistance.

These symptoms can include weight gain, depression, insomnia, mood changes, constipation, and powerful cravings.

It is also important to note that, unlike many drugs for which withdrawal lasts a few weeks, nicotine withdrawal can last up to three months.

This prolonged withdrawal can trigger smoking relapse but can also heighten the desire for opioid drugs.

With this understanding, both opioid and nicotine addictions need to be treated as equally urgent and cared for through professional detoxification and drug rehab program.

Mental Illness, Cigarette Smoking, and Opioid Addiction

There is a strong correlation between mental health issues and cigarette smoking.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, roughly 25% of adults in the U.S. have some form of behavioral health condition, and these same adults consume almost 40% of all cigarettes smoked by adult consumers.

Conversely, the proven connection between mental health issues and drug abuse is complex.

Depression, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia are common triggers for substance abuse, such as alcoholism and opioid abuse, and drugs are often used as a self-medication strategy for insomnia.

Smoking and opioid addiction are common coping substances to the same underlying mental health triggers.

Additionally, many drugs, including opioids and nicotine alter brain chemistry, worsening underlying depression, paranoia, social isolation, and mood issues.

While it is clear that mental illness and substance abuse can form a self-perpetuating cycle, mental illness also plays a role in an individual’s willingness or ability to seek help.

Frequently too isolated, ashamed, or depressed to seek help alone, many addicts will try to hide their addiction until it can no longer be denied.

Unfortunately, if the addiction is treated without proper care for the underlying mental health issues, the tendency toward addiction and self-harm will likely resurface through relapse.

As a result, the link between mental health, smoking, and opioid use can have dangerous physical and emotional consequences unless they are addressed together in a supportive environment.

Treatment for Cigarette Smoking and Opioid Addiction

Cigarette smoking is not a minor addiction.

It can have serious – potentially fatal – health consequences for addicts and a role in triggering and perpetuating opioid addiction.

When this addiction co-occurs with opioid addiction, mental and physical health risks and the severity of withdrawal, cannot be managed alone.

Instead, an inpatient treatment center is the best strategy for lasting recovery and will provide a close, ongoing treatment plan relationship.

While this may sound intimidating, it will allow you to receive the attention you need and address any underlying issues and triggers that could impede treatment.

Medical detoxification will also be an important step in this recovery journey. This process will take place in a supervised setting and may take several days. However, clinicians’ will help ensure that the process takes place safely and without unnecessary discomfort.

Additionally, non-addictive medications may be prescribed to reduce depression, anxiety, or lingering withdrawal issues.

After detoxification is complete, there will be opportunities to pursue counseling, coaching, and personal development programs to help create new habits and a strong foundation for recovery.

Payment Information

Experience the BriteLife Recovery difference.

Here, we believe you should be focused on recovery – not money. To help, we offer payment plans and options to fit almost any budget.

We accept most PPO insurance and private forms of payment and will even communicate with your insurance provider on your behalf.

You can also pay for admission online.

Just call BriteLife Recovery. Your future awaits.

How to Get Help

Your journey begins today.

Our experienced staff and caregivers understand your struggle with smoking and opioid addiction, and we will encourage you on your journey.

Our evidence-based programs will empower your recovery process and help achieve the addiction-free future of your dreams.

Call BriteLife Recovery and embrace your new beginning.

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