A-Z Teen Health Glossary

Blog Categories

Addiction Treatment Results Improved When Teens Stop Smoking

Addiction Treatment | Paradigm Malibu

When parents send their teen to an addiction treatment center, they hope for the best. They imagine their teen returning home with healthy coping tools, resolve to never use drugs again, and a direction for their life moving forward. But that’s not always the case, as some parents know.  Some teens might go to addiction treatment, stay sober for awhile, and then start using again. Some teens might drop out of treatment altogether. Yet, fortunately, new research shows there is hope for teens who decide to quit smoking. This article will explore the results of this study, the relationship between smoking and addiction, as well as the relationship between smoking and mental illness.


Teen Smoking and Addiction Treatment Success


A study published in the November 2016 issue of the Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment suggests that there are strong implications for success in treating addiction for those teens who are no longer smoking. Essentially, teens experience lower cravings for alcohol and drugs. On the other hand, teens who smoked were discharged from addiction treatment with significantly higher cravings for alcohol and drugs, which in turn, tends to increase the risk of relapse.


Also, teens who quit smoking did just as well in the following treatment areas compared to teens who still smoked:

  • treatment duration
  • participation in the 12-steps
  • overall functioning


The study collected date from 195 teens, ages 14 to 18 years old. These teens were either court-mandated to attend a residential addiction treatment program or they were referred by a therapist. Participating teens attended therapeutic activities as well as up to five 12-step meetings per week.


Smoking and Teen Addiction


The study described above was conducted at a treatment center in which smoking was not allowed on the property. This forced many teens to quit. However, some teens smoked while on leave from the facility. Two thirds of the teens who entered addiction treatment in this study were smoking a half pack of cigarettes on average every day.


Typically, an adolescent addiction treatment center does not place focus on helping teens to quit. The main concern with this is that they may be overwhelmed with trying to quit drugs and alcohol as well as nicotine. And this was true in this study as well. Yet, given the results of the study, encouraging teens to quit smoking while in teen addiction treatment may prove to be beneficial.


Furthermore, past research has shown that smoking can sometimes be a gateway to other substances. For example, one study by Yale University researchers found that there may be a relationship between drinking, smoking, and abuse of prescription pain medication among teens. In fact, the study suggested that smoking could be a contributing factor to teens and young adults becoming addicted to opiates. According to the study, teens who drink or smoke are two to three times more likely to abuse prescription pain medication later in life.


Smoking and Teen Mental Illness

Teen Mental Illness | Paradigm Malibu
For centuries, there has been a relationship between mental illness and substance use. In the last 10 years or so, more and more treatment centers are addressing this relationship and supporting teens in overcoming both addiction as well as mental illness – a condition known as dual diagnosis.



Even if a teen with mental illness never uses drugs or alcohol, they turn to smoking. For instance, depression is associated with an increased risk for smoking. Research has found that smoking is often a behavior that depressed teens and adults engage in as a way to feel better. One study found that nicotine receptors in the brain actually improved mood in certain types of depression. Also, the study found that those who smoke are more likely to have symptoms of depression than those who do not.


How to Prevent Teen Smoking and Substance Use


One of the key ways you can prevent substance use in your teen is talking about it. Let your teen know your expectations, guidelines, and what’s acceptable and what’s not. Being very clear with your teen will have the most impact. Teens who have a positive relationship with their parents most often want to follow their guidance.


If your teen has a mental illness, behavior issues, emotional concerns, or other areas of struggle, then you may need to talk to your teen about the dangers of using substances as a means to feel better. You might inform your teen that many people want to turn to nicotine and other substances to take away their symptoms. However, the healthier option is proper mental health treatment.


Here are 15 tips to consider for preventing substance use in your teen:


  1. When driving and passing billboard which highlights the use of cigarettes, talk with their teen about smoking, nicotine addiction, and what smoking does to a person’s body. The same is true if you’re watching a television commercial for cigarettes. Let your teen know that smoking can leave unpleasant odors, get in the way of attracting a mate, and can be harmful to entire body.
  2. Stay respectful when talking with your teen about substance use.
  3. Remember to keep the tone of your discussions calm.
  4. Research the effects of certain drugs, and then share those with your teen. Make sure to include how a specific drug makes a person feel, the risk of overdose, and the long-term damage drugs can cause.
  5. Let your teen know that you disapprove of substance use. Teens who know their parents disapprove are less likely to use.
  6. Set a good example for your teen by being responsible with alcohol. Decide not to drink in front of your teen, even a glass of wine with dinner. You and your spouse can drink outside of your teen’s presence.
  7. To keep your teen safe from prescription drugs, lock your medicine cabinet. When there is no longer a need for certain drugs, throw them away.
  8. Although you may believe that your teen would never use the solvents in your home, you can protect your teen by locking them away and keeping them out of your teen’s reach.
  9. If there is a history of addiction in the family, considering adopting a strict no-drinking/no-drug policy.
  10. If you know that your family is vulnerable to drug addiction (because of mental illness, social contacts, or a family history), keep discussions with your teen open, honest, and real, especially as he or she gets older.
  11. When your teen is old enough to go out alone, have them go out early in the night when most people are still somewhat sober, and leave early before the night gets too carried away.
  12. Teach your teen to order non-alcoholic drinks so that they can look “cool” with a drink in their hand, but not have to manage the hangover in the morning.
  13. Encourage your teen to buddy up with a friend so that they can support each other in staying sober.
  14. Showing respect and treating your teen with maturity will support the communication between you. Let your teen know you want to keep the lines of communication open and that you want to know where they’re going and when they’ll be back.
  15. Check in with your teen every once in awhile and let them know you love them.


These 15 tips might help keep your teen away from substances. However, if your teen drinks or uses drugs and develops an addiction, you can talk to them about the study mentioned above. Quitting smoking can support gaining the most out of addiction treatment, including avoiding relapse and experiencing lower cravings.


If your teen needs professional support for an addiction or a mental illness, contact a mental health provider today.

Dr. Nalin is a Licensed Clinical Psychologist, and Founder and Executive Director of Paradigm Treatment Centers, who has been a respected leader in the field of adolescent mental health for more than 20 years. He received his undergraduate degree from the University of Southern California, his Master’s degree from Loyola Marymount University, his Doctoral degree from Pacific University’s APA approved Clinical Psychology program, and completed his training at the University of California, San Diego’s APA approved psychology internship program.

Dr. Nalin has provided training and mentoring to students entering the field of psychology at institutions of learning including Pepperdine University’s Graduate School of Education and Psychology, UCSD, Pacific University, and Santa Monica College. He was also instrumental in the development of the treatment component of Los Angeles County’s first Juvenile Drug Court, which now serves as a national model.

Dr. Nalin has appeared as an expert on shows ranging from CBS News and Larry King, to CNN, The Today Show and MTV. He was also featured in an Anti-Drug Campaign for the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP).

Dr. Nalin is a Diplomate of the National Institute of Sports Professionals and a Certified Sports Psychologist as well as a Certified Chemical Dependency Intervention Specialist. He lectures and conducts workshops nationally on the issues of teen mental health, substance abuse prevention, and innovative adolescence treatment.

In 2017 Dr. Nalin was awarded The Sigmund Freud Foundation and Sigmund Freud University’s Distinguished Achievement Award in recognition of his work with youth in the field of mental health over the course of his career.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Translate »