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Adults experiencing behavioral health issues more likely to smoke

March 21, 2013
by Shannon Brys, Associate Editor
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Adults experiencing any mental illness or a substance use disorder in the past year represent 24.8 percent of the adult population, but that same group used 39.6 percent of all cigarettes smoked by adults, according to a new report by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).

In terms of rates of cigarette smoking, 38.3 percent of adults experiencing mental illness or substance use disorders were current smokers as opposed to 19.7 percent of those adults without these conditions.  That means that the rate of current cigarette smoking among adults experiencing mental illness or substance use disorders is 94 percent higher than among adults without these disorders.

The report reveals that although people with substance use disorders and no mental disorder constitute only 4.9 percent of adults over age 18, they smoked 8.7 percent of all cigarettes.  Similarly, although those who had experienced both mental illness and a substance use disorder represented only 3.8 percent of the population in the past year, they smoked 9.5 percent of all cigarettes.

This report defines any mental illness as any diagnosable mental, behavioral, or emotional disorder other than a substance use disorder.  It defines a substance use disorder as dependence on or abuse of alcohol or illicit drugs.

The report, Adults with Mental Illness or Substance Use Disorder Account for 40 Percent of All Cigarettes Smoked, is based on the findings of SAMHSA’s 2009-2011 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH).