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Open Access Publications from the University of California

The role of advanced practice psychiatric nurses in treating tobacco use and dependence.


Tobacco use is treatable and the benefits of smoking cessation are impressive, yet like other health care providers, psychiatric nurses have failed to consistently assess and treat tobacco use effectively. Tobacco use continues to cause illness, disability, and death at unprecedented rates. Nicotine addiction is drug abuse and it is a chronic disease and needs to be treated as such. There are clear health benefits to smoking cessation regardless of the age of smoking initiation or the age of smoking cessation. Advanced practice psychiatric nurses (APPNs) are in a unique position to make an impact on a smoker's risk of suffering from tobacco-related diseases: the treatment of choice is the combination of pharmacotherapy and psychosocial interventions, both within the realm of APPN practice; psychiatric and substance abusing patients consistently demonstrate increased rates of cigarette smoking compared with healthy controls; and tobacco use is drug abuse, a treatable chronic disease. The ability of APPNs to deliver psychotherapeutic and pharmacologic care secures a position in the forefront of treating tobacco use. In addition to intervention, psychiatric nurses need to step up and take an active role in initiating and supporting tobacco control policy and legislation.

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