Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Significant progress in tobacco free initiative says OASAS commissioner

The following letter was sent by OASAS Commissioner, Karen Carpenter-Palumbo, yesterday, 11/17/09 concerning New York's leadership in treating tobacco addiction.

At GCASA our staff as not been able to be nicotine dependent since 1999 and our grounds became smoke free in 2003.

Here is the letter:


I want to congratulate you on the significant progress occurring throughout New York with the tobacco-free initiative. We are continuing to capture the program compliance rate during recertification and are encouraged to report that we now have over 80 percent compliance – showing a steady increase since July, 2008.

As New York leads the nation with addressing tobacco in the same context as treating all other substance abuse disorders, we are demonstrating to the country the ability to change the cultural acceptance of tobacco use and treat the deadliest addiction of all. Substance abuse counselors have the knowledge and skills to help individuals working toward recovery deal with their use of addictive substances. These skills are the backbone of the OASAS system of care and directly apply to the treatment of tobacco. The most commonly used models for tobacco treatment combine cognitive behavioral therapy such as motivational enhancement with nicotine replacement therapy (NRT).

Tobacco kills over 430,000 Americans every year. While New York smoking rates have dropped below 17 percent, the addicted population is more than four times that rate, ranging from 80-92 percent. We should remind ourselves that it was not that long ago that another legal substance was allowed during breaks and reward ceremonies. That substance was alcohol. Today, we understand the connection between alcohol and substance use and the studies are becoming more pervasive regarding the strong correlation of tobacco use and the development of other substance use disorders and with more severity such as:

• Early onset of smoking and heavy smoking are highly correlated with the subsequent development of other substances use. (Degenhardt, Hall and Lynskey, 2001)
• Heavy smokers have more severe substance use disorders than do non-smokers and more moderate smokers. (Marks et al., 1997; Krejci, Steinberg and Ziedonis, 2003)
• Tobacco use impedes recovery of brain function among clients whose brains have been damaged by chronic alcohol use. (Durazzo et al., 2007; Durazzo et al., 2006)

Programs are adopting a variety of policies that lead to improved health and long-term recovery. Keeping people engaged in treatment to address their addiction, including tobacco, is the best place for progress. Your policies, commitment and leadership will prevail as we continue to treat tobacco in the same context as treating all other substance abuse disorders. Together we are helping New Yorkers reach their goal of recovery and enhanced health.

Thank you for the work you do each and everyday to prevent, treat and help individuals recover from addiction - saving lives one day at a time.

Karen M. Carpenter-Palumbo

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