According to recently published statistics by the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), approximately 41 percent of patients suffering from severe mental disorders are also daily smokers. Comparatively, the average rate of smoking among the general population is slightly less than 18 percent. For doctors and mental health counselors, determining whether or not to recommend that their patients quit smoking poses a significant challenge.
Should doctors counsel their patients to quit smoking, knowing that the added stress and anxiety will likely lead to an increase in symptoms related to their mental illness? Or should medical professionals continue to look the other way, knowing that smoking causes everything from cancer to emphysema and an entire array of physical ailments?
More smoking statistics of the mentally challenged
According to NAMI statistics, the following groups of mental health patients have these approximate cumulative smoking rates.
- 70 percent of bipolar patients smoke
- 90 percent schizophrenic patients smoke
- 60 percent of patients suffering from chronic depression smoke
- 60 percent of patients suffering from PSTD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder) smoke
- 56 percent of patients suffering from panic disorders smoke
A recent vape study published by the South London and Maudsley (SLaM) National Health Service Foundation Trust suggests that patients who switch to vaping can enjoy a vastly improved quality of life with minimal increases in physical confrontations or other related symptoms. The SLaM study entitled The South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust Biomedical Research Centre (SLAM BRC) case register: development and descriptive data is readily available via the US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health
SLaM researchers began by conducting a series of 35 different tests involving nearly 24,000 patients suffering from a wide range of severe mental illnesses. Over a period of several years, they monitored these patients as they made a transition from smoking to vaping while tracking any significant changes in anxiety levels, physical hostilities, manic episodes, and other symptoms related to their disorders. As a basis for comparison, the researchers monitored a control group of participants attempting to quit smoking via the traditional cold-turkey method.
- The duration of the study was approximately 42-weeks.
- Doctors monitored the patients for a period of 30-months prior to the vaping transition and continued for another 12-months after the transition began.
- 17% of participants exhibited previous tendencies toward physical violence during times of high stress.
- Prior to the study’s commencement, there were 4,500 documented occurrences of physical assaults on mental health staff between 2014 and 2015.
- After switching to vaping in a carefully-controlled smoke-free environment, the rates of physical altercations plummeted by 39%.
The results of the SLaM study are further supported by additional research conducted by the Mental Health & Smoking Partnership (MHSP) in Great Britain. According to MHSP, patients with severe mental health disorders may require e-liquids with a slightly higher dosage of nicotine extract as compared to vapers of the general population. They might also need to vape in longer durations. Perhaps the most noteworthy aspect of the report suggests that switching to vaping can add ten to twenty years to the lives of the mentally ill.
“Smoking is around twice as common among people with mental health conditions as in the general population. Over the last 20 years smoking rates among the general population have declined steadily but smoking rates have barely changed among people with a mental health condition. People with mental health conditions die on average 10 to 20 years earlier than the general population and smoking is the single largest reason for this shocking difference.”
The report clearly notes that the shortened lifespan in mental health patients is not commonly attributed to their associated mental disorder but rather to the astonishingly high smoking rates attributed to this particular demographic. According to these reputable studies, switching to vaping may be a significantly healthier and life-affirming alternative, and metal health specialists should be encouraged to endorse vaping as a relevant form of tobacco harm reduction.
Related Article: Major psychiatry organization endorses vaping