Mentally-challenged smokers can live 20 years longer by switching to vaping, says study

National statistics indicate that about 20 percent of Americans suffer from a severe mental disorder, and about 40 percent of this demographic are regular smokers.  Individual diagnoses typically include schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, chronic depression, and anxiety disorders including panic attacks and post-traumatic stress disorder or PTSD. 

Mental health specialists often find themselves at a crossroads.  How can they help their mentally-challenged patients to quit smoking without increasing their related levels of stress which can easily exasperate their symptoms?  Research published by scientists from the South London and Maudsley’s (SLaM) National Health Service Foundation Trust suggests that switching to vaping may be the answer. 

Switching to vaping can add 20 years of life

The UK study entitled Effect of implementation of a smoke-free policy on physical violence in a psychiatric inpatient setting: an interrupted time series analysis Is published in the mental health journal Lancet Psychiatry.  Led by Dr. Debbie Robinson, the research team conducted one of the most exhaustive and comprehensive longitudinal research projects to date, with individual clinical trials lasting as long as 42-weeks in duration.

Over a period of several years, the research team began by monitoring and evaluating some 24,000 mentally-challenged patients as they attempted to transition from smoking to vaping.   With such an expansive control group consisting of patients ranging in age from 20 to 70 years, nearly every race and culture were also represented. 

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Over the course of their research, the UK team conducted 35 different clinical trials where a predefined selection of biomarkers for each patient was carefully collected, compared, and analyzed periodically.  All participants were also professionally monitored throughout by qualified mental health specialists. Any changes in behaviors which might trigger manic episodes, increased anxiety levels, physical assaults, and other signs of adverse symptoms related to the patients’ individual diagnoses were also documented.    

Additionally, each of the clinical trials also consisted of a control group of mentally-challenged participants who were attempting to quit smoking the old-fashioned, and more conventional way – the cold-turkey method.  Furthermore, all patients of both groups were carefully selected and consistently monitored for a full 30-months prior to the start of the study and another 12-months after the study had ended.    

Furthermore, the participants of the vaping group were each provided the same vapor products and e-liquids.  Both groups also received professional counseling throughout the years-long clinical trials to help manage any related withdrawal symptoms from quitting smoking that might have occurred along the way.

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Unfortunately, one of the more common withdrawal symptoms for mentally-challenged smokers trying to quit is an increase in physical confrontations with other patients and mental healthcare workers during times of increased stress.  The UK research team paid special attention to these types of issues, and they discovered something rather remarkable.

Compared to the cold-turkey patients, the vaping-only group exhibited 39 percent fewer physical assaults comparatively.  And less than 5 percent of the documented physical altercations that did occur could not be attributed to withdrawals symptoms related to quitting smoking.

“4550 physical assaults took place between April 1, 2012, and Sept 30, 2015; 225 (4·9%) of which were smoking-related. After adjustment for temporal and seasonal trends and key confounders (sex, age, schizophrenia or related disorders, or having been sectioned under the Mental Health Act), there was a 39% reduction in the number of physical assaults per month after the policy introduction compared with beforehand (incidence rate ratio 0·61, 95% CI 0·53–0·70; p<0·0001).”

The co-authors of the study further indicate that if the psychiatry community were to endorse vaping as safe and effective tobacco harm reduction tool, then mentally-challenged smokers could theoretically increase their lifespans by another 20-years.  Currently, most mental health professionals are forced to choose between the lesser of two evils.

Should mental healthcare workers counsel their patients to quit smoking, which could adversely affect their overall quality of life?  Or should doctors focus more on their patients’ mental health issues management, knowing that their daily smoking is slowing killing their patients in the meantime?  Thanks to vaping, the mental healthcare community may no longer be forced to choose. 

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