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Smoking cessation programs can be successful in patients hospitalized for mental illness, a new study concludes. Researchers at Stanford University found psychiatric patients in a quit-smoking program were more likely to stop using cigarettes, and were less likely to be re-hospitalized for mental illness, compared with patients not in the program.

Some mental health experts believe smoking is useful in treating psychiatric patients, as a way of helping them deal with stress, HealthDay reports. They may use cigarettes as part of a reward system, according to researcher Judith Prochaska.

She studied 224 patients at a smoke-free psychiatric hospital, with a range of mental health disorders including schizophrenia, depression and bipolar disorder. Three-quarters were suicidal. They had smoked at least five cigarettes a day before being admitted, and were offered nicotine gum or patches during their hospitalization.

Half of the patients participated in a smoking-cessation program, which included a computer-assisted program with individualized feedback, which was repeated three and six months after they left the hospital. They received a manual, met with a counselor, and were offered a 10-week supply of nicotine patches. The other half were given a pamphlet about the dangers of smoking, and were provided with information on how to quit.

The researchers followed up with the participants 18 months after they left the hospital, and found 20 percent of those in the treatment group had quit smoking, compared with 7.7 percent of those who did not receive treatment. Fifty-six percent of those who had not participated in the smoking cessation program were readmitted to the hospital, compared with 44 percent of those who had been enrolled in the program.

The findings appear in the American Journal of Public Health.

In a news release, Prochaska said the study demonstrates that helping patients quit smoking did not interfere with their mental health recovery, and may have helped it.



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