University of Georgia

Smoke-out priority

lit cigarette butt on the edge of a table

Substance abuse treatments that help young people recover from drug and alcohol addictions generally haven’t been used to wean adolescents from tobacco, according to a UGA study.

After analyzing several treatment programs, the researchers found that few counselors in adolescent-only substance abuse treatment centers also implemented some sort of tobacco cessation treatment when working with patients.

Tobacco addiction in adolescents is an often overlooked issue because it doesn’t carry the stigma or urgency that alcohol and other serious drugs abuses do, according to Jessica Muilenburg, associate professor at the College of Public Health and the study’s lead author.

“These centers’ primary goal is getting their patients off alcohol and drugs,” she said, but “what most people don’t realize is that tobacco changes the chemistry of your brain and makes you crave whatever your drugs of choice are, which is why kicking the tobacco habit along with the rest of your addictions is important.”

Thus “we are recommending that tobacco be treated with the same urgency as other substances, because relapse is less likely if you treat the nicotine addiction as well,” she said. “If we can get adolescents off all of their drugs, including tobacco, it will be more beneficial for them in the future.”