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Residential Program Helps Heavy Smokers Sustain Abstinence

Monday March 14, 2011
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Heavy smokers have a significantly better chance of quitting and abstaining long-term if they receive residential treatment than instead of standard outpatient treatment, according to a study.

In a study for the March issue of Mayo Clinic Proceedings, 52% of patients still were not smoking six months after residential treatment, compared with 26% in an outpatient treatment setting.

“This means there is hope for patients who are tobacco dependent and feel they have exhausted every other means of trying to quit smoking,” said Taylor Hays, MD, a Mayo Clinic nicotine dependence specialist and an author of the study.

“Many patients and healthcare providers become discouraged when long-term abstinence from smoking can’t be achieved,” Hays added. “Repeated outpatient treatment is the only option available to most. Our study shows that a ‘next step’ in more intensive treatment results in a remarkably high success rate compared with the usual approach to re-treatment as an outpatient.”

Mayo Clinic researchers compared data from 4,553 cigarette smokers who underwent a tobacco dependence consultation at the Mayo Clinic Nicotine Dependence Center between 2004 and 2007, in either the outpatient or residential setting.

Of those smokers, 4,327 received comprehensive outpatient treatment for tobacco dependence and 226 received treatment in an intensive eight-day residential setting. Compared with outpatients, residential patients were more dependent on tobacco, smoked more heavily and were more likely to have more associated medical and psychiatric illnesses.

“Our residential program offers treatment in a protected environment where we provide group and individual counseling treatment and medication therapy,” Hays said. “We are able to focus many hours of contact with patients in a relatively brief time, and this is probably the key to its success.”

“Our outpatients receive an individual counseling session followed by telephone or face-to-face follow-up counseling as well as medications. However, treatment is usually spread over several weeks and does not allow the concentrated contact with patients compared with residential treatment.”

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