While drug and alcohol addictions among teens seem to garner the most attention, some scientists believe focusing on tobacco addiction could be even more beneficial to teen health. Last November, University of Georgia researchers determined the same programs used to get teens off of drugs and alcohol could be effective for tobacco addiction. By weaning teens off of tobacco, researchers also suggested treatment for drug and alcohol dependencies could be more effective as well.
The Dangers of Tobacco
Nicotine is the ingredient in tobacco that is addictive and it is particularly dangerous for younger smokers. Because the teen brain is still “under construction” it is more vulnerable to the effects of nicotine. This also makes the young brain more vulnerable to nicotine addiction, even after a just a few cigarettes. In addition to nicotine, cigarettes contain carbon monoxide, tar and other substances that can lead to damage of vital organs like the heart and lungs.
Prevalence of Teen Smoking
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) estimates that more than 2,500 kids under the age of 18 try smoking every day. Peak years for trying cigarettes appears to be between the ages of 11 and 13, with 14.8 percent of students admitting to trying out the habit by the end of eighth grade. Of those who experiment with cigarettes, approximately 580 become regular smokers each day.
Tobacco use is the leading cause of preventable death in the U.S., according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that tobacco prematurely takes the lives of around 480,000 U.S. residents every year. That makes up around 20 percent of all deaths in the U.S. and equates to 1,300 deaths every day.
Access to Treatment Options
Researchers in this recent study analyzed 22 substance abuse treatment centers across the U.S. to determine whether any of the facilities focused on helping patients overcome tobacco addiction. The scientists discovered that a very few number of counselors in these centers implemented tobacco cessation programs, despite the fact that they have the knowledge to oversee these programs and the ability to prescribe medications to help those with a tobacco addiction.
While the researchers found that counselors at treatment centers were focused on other types of substance abuse, including drugs and alcohol, those that encouraged tobacco cessation at the same time saw fewer patients relapse during their recovery. This realization led the researchers of the study to recommend smoking cessation programs at treatment centers, since these programs may offer far-reaching benefits to patients struggling with more than one type of addiction.
Many Risks of Tobacco
Today, cigarettes are not the only way people can become addicted to tobacco. Chewing tobacco is also addictive and leads to serious health problems like mouth and throat cancer, gum disease and tooth loss. Smokers that use water pipes (hookahs) or electronic cigarettes can also suffer the consequences of the dangerous chemicals they inhale through these devices. In fact, lack of sufficient studies in this area leave users at a loss as to just how much damage they are doing. Some experts estimate the exposure to the harmful chemicals could be higher, making these forms of smoking even more dangerous than traditional cigarettes.
Tobacco is just one type of addiction plaguing young people in the U.S. today. If you or someone you know is battling an addiction, help is available. Contact the team at Visions Adolescent Treatment Centers at 866-889-3665 to find out how we can help you overcome your substance addiction today.