Smokers with chronic pain smoke more, but show desire to quit

Lexington, Ky. (August 3, 2006) -- Smokers who experience significant pain smoke more cigarettes per day than those who are not regularly in pain, according to a study published by researchers at the University of Kentucky. However, more than half of smokers with pain are at least considering quitting smoking.

"While people with pain smoke more, they are just as interested in quitting as those without pain," said study author Ellen Hahn, professor, UK College of Nursing.

According to the study, published in the June 2006 edition of Nicotine & Tobacco Research, not only do smokers who suffer from chronic pain tend to smoke at higher than average rates, but some studies suggest that smoking may cause patients to not do well in pain therapy.

"Pain sufferers may not view smoking cessation as a goal of their treatment. Exercise, diet and smoking cessation are all activities more likely to make a person feel worse in the short run, but may be keys to regaining enough vitality to live fully with significant pain," Hahn said. "People who have become used to feeling sick often do not see the importance of endeavors that do not provide pain relief. Placing formal tobacco dependence treatment programs within pain clinics would be worthwhile, in light of this research."

Study co-author Kenneth Kirsh, a UK College of Pharmacy assistant professor in the Department of Pharmacy Practice and Science, said that "people with pain conditions may have initially started smoking as an attempt to treat their pain. Some evidence does suggest a role for nicotine in pain management. However, cigarettes are not the ideal delivery system for this and any benefit quickly goes away for people in pain. Therefore, it is important to find ways to help pain patients quit smoking."

Pain relief, the study suggests, should be a starting point for a myriad of healthy lifestyle changes. Similarly, researchers suggest smoking cessation programs incorporate pain management into their protocols.

"Like in similar research, those in our study who smoke to relieve pain are more likely to be depressed and disabled than those who do not use smoking for pain relief," Hahn said. "Because of these findings, smoking cessation programs should incorporate treatment for psychological and physical problems common among smokers."

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The study was funded by the American Legacy Foundation and the UK Markey Cancer Center.

In striving to become a Top 20 public research institution, the University of Kentucky is a catalyst for a new Commonwealth a Kentucky that is healthier, better educated, and positioned to compete in a global and changing economy. For more information about UK's efforts to become a Top 20 university, please go to http://www.uky.edu/OPBPA/Top20.html.


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