The New York State Department of Health has awarded Odyssey House a $450,000 grant to help substance abusers in recovery reduce or abstain from smoking. The Odyssey House Case Management Smoking Cessation program is a step-by-step intervention that addresses the physical, psychological, and social aspects of tobacco addiction through individual and group counseling, nicotine replacement therapy, and education.
Smoking kills more persons residing in New York City than alcohol, suicide, homicide, motor vehicle crashes, heroin and cocaine use, and breast cancer combined. The reduction and possible cessation of tobacco use is particularly important and needed with drug abusing individuals as 80-90% of those persons use tobacco compared to about 20% of the general population.
Dr. Peter Provet, president of Odyssey House said he welcomed the infusion of state funds into this lifesaving initiative. “Our experience at Odyssey House tells us smoking cessation and drug use cessation can occur simultaneously. This grant will help address the myth that you can’t ask addicts to give up too much too soon, and could also generate research interest into the treatment of multiple addictions.”
Substance abusers present special challenges that make them especially resistant to current smoking cessation interventions. Most substance abusers suffer from multiple correlates of addiction such as poverty, homelessness, unemployment, time in prison – all conditions that can foster a high smoking rate and reduce the likelihood of seeking help or paying for smoking cessation therapy.
Mainstream public health measures such as smoking bans and restrictions, increasing the unit price for tobacco, and anti-smoking prevention campaigns, are less relevant for this population who are typically outside the usual delivery systems for smoking cessation interventions. Several of the strategies recommended by government agencies involve interactions administered by a healthcare provider, in a healthcare setting, or even as part of a managed healthcare plan. Outside of the time they spend in substance abuse facilities and the criminal justice system, the populations in treatment at Odyssey House do not have regular access to these healthcare providers.
“While individuals are in treatment at Odyssey House we have an opportunity to reach a population that current smoking cessation interventions have had very little impact on,” explained Dr. Provet. “With the support of the New York State Department of Health we can develop programs that will be successful in reaching these groups and saving lives.”
The Odyssey House Case Management Smoking Cessation program will be administered by an on-site healthcare provider who will be involved in each individual’s program. The grant will cover the costs of pharmacotherapy, implement a tobacco-user identification system, and provide dedicated staff for tobacco dependence treatment. Odyssey House staff and clients will serve as peers, therapists, teachers, and role models in a complex behavioral change process. Clients will learn to recognize the association of cigarette smoking with their drug use and how each serves as a stimulus for the other.
The program will be based in the Odyssey House Outpatient Services facility in the South Bronx.