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Schizophrenia & Smoking

Learn about the link between schizophrenia and smoking from psychiatrist Jeanie Tse in this Howcast video.


Hi. I'm Jeanie Tse, here to talk to you about schizophrenia and its relationship to smoking. We know that about 80 percent of people who have schizophrenia smoke, which is far higher than the general population, where it's more like 20 percent. And so, a lot of people have looked at the reasons why that is. So, there's been a lot of different research to look at why there's this relationship between schizophrenia and smoking.

One theory has to do with self medication, that people with schizophrenia smoke to reduce stress and to reduce symptoms like depression and agitation. As well, smoking seems to help with some of the cognitive symptoms of schizophrenia, so it helps them to think clearer and decreases some of the confusion that can happen in schizophrenia.

But, the biggest of reason that has stood up in the studies may be boredom, that a lot of people with schizophrenia end up being institutionalize for periods of time, being out of work and that leads to a lot of idle time that leads to smoking behavior. Obviously, we know that smoking leads to poor outcomes in terms of heart disease, lung disease, and cancer, and so we know that this is something that needs to address.

So, there's a lot of energy being put into smoking cessation programs for people with schizophrenia and other serious mental illnesses. And so, these can be access you know through your treatment providers. Both your psychiatrist and primary care providers have been involve in these efforts. You can call 311 in New York City or you can access your local city government to obtain things.

In New York City, we provide nicotine replacement patches and gum to people for free. And in hospitals they've also put in smoking cessation programs. It used to be that in every psychiatric ward across the country, there was a smoking room or you could just actually smoke on the unit. When I started training as a psychiatrist, we even used to give cigarettes out to people to encourage them to come into the clinic.

That is a thing of the past, thank goodness, we now really work to reduce smoking because we know that it really affects people risk, both in terms of mortality and quality of life.

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