3 Ways for People with Mental Illness to Quit Smoking

May is Mental Health Awareness Month

About 26% of Americans (56 million) have a mental illness, and about 36% of them smoke cigarettes (NIMH, CDC). In comparison, 17% of all adults smoke cigarettes (NHIS 2015).

The bad news: Research shows people with mental illness are much more likely to die from their smoking than from their mental health issues, and die sooner than peers who don’t smoke.

The good news: More people have quit smoking than currently smoke, and many of those former smokers have had a mental illness. There are 3 proven ways people with mental illness can quit smoking:

  1. Talk to Your Doctor. There are seven FDA-approved medications to help patients quit smoking, and all are covered with no co-pay by Medicaid/BadgerCare. A study of 8,000 people in the April 22 issue of the journalLancet did not show a significant increase in negative psychiatric effects attributable to two quit-smoking medications, varenicline or bupropion, relative to nicotine patch or placebo. Varenicline was more effective at helping patients quit smoking than placebo, nicotine patch, and bupropion, whereas bupropion and nicotine patch were more effective than placebo. It should be noted that varenicline and bupropion continue to carry a black-box warning to physicians, at least for now. Patients should talk to their doctor to see if taking medications to help quit smoking is right for them.
  2. Call the Wisconsin Tobacco Quit LineApproximately half of callers to 800-QUIT-NOW (800-784-8669) report having at least one form of mental illness. Callers receive free coaching on how to quit plus a free two-week supply of either the nicotine patch, lozenge, or gum. 
  3. Visit SmokeFree.gov. This site offers free online chatting with a quit coach, a text-to-quit program, tips for those dealing with depression or stress, and a bevy of other resources to help people quit smoking.

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The Wisconsin Nicotine Treatment Integration Project (WiNTiP) works to help clinicians who treat patients with mental illness to quit smoking. Visit www.HelpUsQuit.org.

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