Smoking rates higher among the mentally ill

Utah has the lowest smoking rate for people with mental illness, while West Virginia has the highest, according to a new study.

By Jason Notte Feb 7, 2013 11:56AM
Credit: Vicente Alfonso/Getty Images
Caption: A hand and a cigaretteThe government's identified one of the tobacco industry's key demographics -- and cigarette makers would be wise to nod, say "that's nice" and walk away.

According to a report issued Tuesday by both the Centers of Disease Control and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, people with mental illness are 70% more likely to smoke than those without. The report shows that 36% of adults with mental illness smoke, compared to just 21% of people without mental illness.

There are about 46 million adults with mental illness in the United States. According to the report, those same adults are less likely to quit smoking once they've started and consume nearly a third of the cigarettes sold in the U.S.

While 34% of women with mental illness smoke, the problem is a bit more acute for the 40% of men with mental illness who do the same. The report links poverty to increased smoking among all demographics, but it's a far greater issue for those with mental illness. While 33% of those without mental illness living below the poverty line smoke, that percentage jumps to 48% once mental illness is a factor.

So what's the key difference? Though the report didn't include patients in psychiatric hospitals, it noted that smoking is far more normalized at mental health facilities than in other establishments. Patients there are also more likely to know people who smoke and to receive cigarettes as a reward for good behavior. Once people with mental illness start smoking, they find that it takes the edge off their medication's negative side effects and they continue to use cigarettes to keep symptoms under control.

Unfortunately, the doctors behind the report found that mental illness also makes smokers a lot less capable of handling withdrawal symptoms and reduces their desire to quit. This contributes to corresponding rates of mental illness and overall smoking in certain states. Utah, for example, had the lowest rate of smoking among people with mental illness at 18.1%. Meanwhile, West Virginia had the highest rate at 48.7%.

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Feb 7, 2013 3:35PM
Smoking rewards the dopamine receptors in someone's brain. That's the pleasure, calming center in your brain.  For someone with mental illness smoking actually calms them down and may prevent a psychotic episode by keeping them calm. Someone who smokes cigarettes is self medicating just like someone who would smoke pot or drink alcohol .

Unfortunately eliminating smoking releases more unstable people in the community than would keeping them smoking.

Feb 7, 2013 3:55PM
So if I smoke weed AND cigs, does that mean I'm twice as crazy?
Feb 7, 2013 3:27PM
i used to smoke. i smoked more when i was feeling nervous.
Feb 7, 2013 3:21PM
Feb 7, 2013 3:08PM
Smoking rates higher among the mentally ill
Utah has the lowest smoking rate for people with mental illness, while West Virginia has the highest, according to a new study.


I'd have to know which of "the" mentaly ill were studied to validate the findings

Feb 7, 2013 3:23PM

It's because people with mental illness don't have good coping skills and substance abuse is a way of coping.  Yes, cigarettes are legal but people who are smokers are substance abusers, pure and simple. 


It's no different than us commenters on these news stories.  Commentating is a way for us to unwind and get our tensions out.  I have a feeling that most of us who are regular commenters have some form of mental illness or another. 

Feb 7, 2013 3:44PM

CDC is now classified as a "Tool" of the current administration.....

I see it now, If you smoke, you're classified as possibly mentally ill and you may be turned down for gun ownership........How convienent!

Feb 7, 2013 3:29PM
Feb 7, 2013 4:13PM

What a misleading article.  There is an agenda that smoking is a lower class

weaker mind phenomena. Did you ever think to look into the pharmacology

or how the nicotine is attractive to certain disorders?  With dopamine low in certain

illnesses, the nicotine is a boost. Not something you will see a great deal with depression.

This journalism aids in the stigmatizing of the mentally ill.



Feb 7, 2013 4:11PM
It is a well-known fact that people with depression, anxiety, personality disorder, etc......all have brain chemistry imbalances and usually, other hormone imbalances.  Probably the same imbalances that cause us to become more "hooked" on substances, especially cigarettes.  I do know that it was found (back in the '90s) that most people who are VERY hooked on cigarettes (and also smoke more, more times of day or night) that these people are more lacking in naturally occurring dopamine in the brain.  Dopamine is also the substance lacking in Parkinson's disease, which causes all those symptoms you've either seen or heard about.  Many people in the U.S. and elsewhere have been treated for depression, mania, and the like.  Depression is one of the expected symptoms of not only nicotine withdrawal, but of withdrawing for the rest of your life from the habit or action of smoking.  I am not a professional, but have studied up, mainly on account of my own block of time in the past, where I suffered from extreme anxiety, depression, and further hypomanic bouts.  What they found, years after this time, was a slow diseased thyroid gland, that had formerly been running past full speed ahead, later slowing down.  This is typical of Hashimoto's Thyroiditis, specifically that form of thyroid disorder, and, no, it can't be cured.  Grave's Disease (the thyroid running at an ungodly clip) is also becoming very suspect for full blown mania and hypomania, and, no, that one can't be cured either.  Either way, the thyroid will run in an up-down up-down fashion, sometimes for many many years, sometimes for a few short months, before it finally collapses into a state of never working correctly again, with nodules and such inside of it.  These are both autoimmune diseases, with "self" destruction immune factors.  They have found that stopping smoking in an already active smoker of some years will cause the discharge of thyocinate (we know what cyanide is, right?).  I'm probably being overly serious and long-winded about this because thyroid disease is one of the most common diseases around, but one of the least understood among so many doctors, that it is often overlooked by doctors of psychiatry and every other doctor in practice, for ANY cause.  I am one of these people, and, many many years ago, I thought that I was losing my mind for a very long time, at least until the thyroid completely failed.  Before that, mania, after the failure, depression, and no, it was the thyroid disease FIRST, not the other way around.  I had become a VERY heavy smoker because my body chemistry raced along all the time, even when I was supposed to be sleeping.  I consider this important enough, for other people, to be very long-winded about it.  Sorry if you're asleep now, lol!
Feb 7, 2013 3:39PM
Folks, this is your Captain speaking, look, uhm, light 'em up, cause we're going down, okay, I got a carton of Camel non-filters, I'll see you on the ground.
Feb 7, 2013 3:38PM

































































































Feb 7, 2013 3:41PM

These studies are prejudicial based on the simple fact that the final results are determined before the study begins.

Feb 7, 2013 3:25PM
There are people that have written some comments overall, and I have to wonder if any of them are smokers, after reading this new study and reading their comments!
Feb 7, 2013 3:26PM
Feb 7, 2013 3:44PM

I don't smoke so I must not be ill. Huh, who'd a thunk.

Feb 7, 2013 3:35PM
Garbageman11 I just rolled a Fatty and Im ****in craaaazzzzyyyy!!!!!
Feb 7, 2013 4:27PM

I hope we as taxpayers are not funding these stupid studies!

The CDC needs to confine it's research to the control and cures for diseases instead of this crap!

We need to be upset more when the fed spends our money on frivolous studies like they have been!

Feb 7, 2013 3:45PM
"and cigarette makers would be wise to nod, say "that's nice" and walk away." are you freaking kidding me?! That's disgusting. That's your opening sentence? Stigmatize and install fear of people who need help, your pathetic I can't believe how disgusting you are. Trying to spread fear is deplorable, if we were a decent society that would be cause for reprimand. Stop spreading fear. Oh n btw I'm a gun owning democrat.
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