You probably know that mental health disorders and substance use disorders frequently go hand in hand. Many people attempt to self-medicate their problems, using drugs and alcohol in an attempt to drown out the feelings of anxiety or depression. Did you know that tobacco use is also high among people with mental illnesses? In fact, these individuals are twice as likely as the general public to smoke cigarettes. They are also more likely to die from smoking-related illness than from their mental and substance use disorders. According to the CDC, behavioral health treatment centers need to put more of an emphasis on tobacco control in order to help curb this problem.

In 2008, New York became the first state to require that all state-funded or state-certified substance abuse treatment programs prohibit smoking on their campuses, including outdoor areas. A year after this policy was implemented, supervisors at these facilities began to notice that fewer patients were smoking, more were aware of the dangers associated with smoking, and more wanted to quit. Following the success of this program, other states began to follow New York’s lead, and the CDC suggested that more mental health centers adopt tobacco-free campuses.

Another of the strategies suggested by the CDC is to use grant funding to address tobacco use. In Oklahoma, there’s something called the Oklahoma Tobacco Settlement Endowment Trust (TSET), which works to reduce tobacco use in the state. The funds for the trust come from the Master Settlement Agreement, which was a legal settlement that tobacco companies agreed to in 1998 that, in addition to prohibiting tobacco advertising that targets people younger than 18 years of age, required the companies to pay states and territories billions of dollars in yearly installments to make up for money spent on tobacco-related illnesses. In the five years since Oklahoma instituted its new rules, the percentage of people with a mental health condition (who were served by state’s Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services) who also smoked dropped from 71 percent to 45 percent.

Some of the CDC’s other suggestions include providing training on tobacco interventions to behavioral health clinical staff, case managers, and social workers, changing screening procedures to make sure clients are asked about cigarette use, offering behavioral health clients nicotine replacement therapy, and using non-nicotine cessation medications such as bupropion (marketed as Zyban, Wellbutrin, Wellbutrin SR, and Wellbutrin XL) and Varenicline (Chantix).


In 2016, of all U.S. mental health treatment facilities: 48.6 percent had a smoke-free campus, 48.9 percent screened clients for tobacco use, 37.6 percent offered tobacco cessation counseling, 25.2 percent offered nicotine replacement therapy (NRT), and 21.5 percent offered non-nicotine tobacco cessation medications.

If you or a loved one need help with quitting drugs or alcohol, consider Asana Recovery. We offer medical detox, along with both residential and outpatient programs, and you’ll be supervised by a highly trained staff of medical professionals, counselors, and therapists. Call us any time at (949) 438-4504 to get started.