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Treating PTSD and Smoking Together Best Way to Help Vets Kick Cigarettes
Date:12/7/2010

By Jenifer Goodwin
HealthDay Reporter

TUESDAY, Dec. 7 (HealthDay News) -- Combining post-traumatic stress disorder treatment with smoking cessation is the best way to help such veterans stop smoking, a new study reports.

In the study, Veterans Affairs (VA) researchers randomly assigned 943 smokers with PTSD from their wartime service into two groups: One group got mental health care and its participants were referred to a VA smoking cessation clinic. The other group received integrated care, in which VA mental health counselors provided smoking cessation treatment along with PTSD treatment.

Vets in the integrated care group were twice as likely to quit smoking for a prolonged period as the group referred to cessation clinics, the study reported. Both groups were recruited from outpatient PTSD clinics at 10 VA medical centers.

Researchers verified who had quit by using a test for exhaled carbon monoxide as well as a urine test that checked for cotinine, a byproduct of nicotine. Over a follow-up period of up to 48 months between 2004 and 2009, they found that forty-two patients, or nearly 9 percent, in the integrated care group quit smoking for at least a year, compared to 21 patients, or 4.5 percent, in the group referred to smoking cessation clinics.

"Veterans with PTSD can be helped for their nicotine addiction," said lead study author Miles McFall, director of post-traumatic stress disorder treatment programs at the VA Puget Sound Health Care System in Seattle. "We do have effective treatments to help them, and they should not be afraid to ask their health care provider, including mental health providers, for assistance in stopping smoking."

The study appears in the Dec. 8 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

The study is "a major step forward on the road to abating the previously overlooked epidemic of tobacco dependence" plaguing people with mental illness, a
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