Tobacco dependence in teens should be treated as seriously as drug or alcohol addiction, according to researchers at the University of Georgia.
They found only a small number of counselors in addiction treatment centers for teens implement some sort of tobacco cessation treatment.
Lead author Jessica Muilenburg says tobacco “changes the chemistry of your brain and makes you crave whatever your drug of choice is, which is why kicking the tobacco habit with the rest of your addictions is important.” She added, “It’s a drug, but it’s not treated in the same capacity and with the same urgency as other drugs.
We are saying to treat it with the same urgency, because relapse is less likely if you treat the nicotine as well.”
Muilenberg noted that tobacco addiction in teens is often ignored because it does not carry the same stigma as alcohol or drug abuse.
Her study included 22 addiction treatment centers that only treated adolescents, Newswise reports.
She found that counselors typically do not prescribe tobacco cessation treatments, even though a majority of counselors at these centers have the knowledge to implement tobacco cessation treatments, and can prescribe medications such as the patch or nicotine gum.
“Their primary goal is getting them off of alcohol and other drugs, but if we can get them off of all drugs, including tobacco, it will be more beneficial for them in the future,” Muilenburg noted.
Muilenberg said she believes addiction treatment counselors should be required to know how to treat tobacco-dependent individuals when they obtain their license.
The findings are published in the Journal of Adolescent Health.