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Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

BU: Cigarette Smoking Linked to Increased Risk of Substance Use Relapse

Past studies have shown that as many as three-quarters of adults with substance use disorders (SUDs) also have a history of cigarette smoking. Now, a new study by a team that includes a Boston University School of Public Health (BUSPH) researcher has found that continuing or initiating cigarette use after stopping the use of illicit drugs is associated with an increased likelihood of substance use relapse.

The study, in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, examined the association between cigarette smoking and relapse rates among adults who had stopped illicit substance use. The researchers studied data from 34,653 adults enrolled in the National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions (NESARC) who were assessed at two time points, three years apart, on substance use, substance use disorders, and related physical and mental disorders.

Dr. Sandro Galea, dean and Robert A. Knox Professor at BUSPH, was a co-author on the study. It was led by researchers from Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health and the City University of New York.

Daily smokers and nondaily smokers had about twice the odds of relapsing to drug use at the end of the three-year period compared to nonsmokers. Those odds held even after controlling for demographics and other factors, including mood, anxiety, alcohol use disorders, and nicotine dependence.

“To our knowledge, no prior study has shown that cigarette smoking — both continued smoking and new-onset smoking — is associated with an increase in the likelihood of relapse to SUD among adults with past SUDs,” the authors said.

To read more about the study, go to: