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Smoking Linked to More Severe Mental Health Issues

Every year, smoking kills over 480,000 Americans and nearly half of these deaths are people who were living with mental illness. With nearly 44.4% of all cigarettes in America being consumed by individuals with mental illness and/or a substance abuse disorder, there has been a long standing connection between smoking, mental illness, and suicide.

This relationship has had scientists wonder for years; is smoking merely a coping mechanism that helps relieve mental illness symptoms and suicidal ideation? Or is it possible that smoking worsens the mental state leading more people with mental illness into suicidal ideation?

In a recent article from the journal “Nicotine &Tobacco Research,” authors discuss the connection between suicide and smoking. They analyzed suicide rates in states that aggressively implemented anti-smoking policies from 1990 to 2004 and compared them to suicide rates in states that had more relaxed policies. The authors reported that the states that imposed cigarette excise taxes and smoke-free air regulations had lower adjusted suicide rates than did states with fewer anti-smoking initiatives.
“Markedly elevated rates of smoking are found among people with anxiety disorders, alcohol and drug dependence, schizophrenia and other diagnoses, in both clinical and general studies,” authors wrote. “However, it is also possible that smoking is not merely a marker for psychiatric disorders, but rather directly increases the risk for such disorders, which in turn increases the risk for suicide.”

Scientists have known for years that people who smoke have a higher risk for suicide, but they had assumed the risk was related to the psychiatric disorders that affect many smokers. These new findings suggest smoking may increase the risk for psychiatric disorders, or make them more severe, which could increase the risk of suicide.

Until recently, people have had the misconception that quitting smoking would increase symptoms of mental illness. However, the American Psychological Association published an article that states, “Quitting smoking does not impair mental health recovery. On the contrary, tobacco use is associated with greater depressive symptoms, a greater likelihood of psychiatric hospitalization and an increase in suicidal behavior. Abstaining from cigarettes, on the other hand, can help people with other addictions maintain sobriety.”

Quitting smoking not only could improve an individual’s physical health and extend their life span, but it may also allow them to take a lower dose of psychiatric medication. Since smoking increases the breakdown of medicines in your body, smokers need to take higher doses to get the same results as someone who does not smoke.

To learn about the effects of smoking and mental illness, go to: