Magazine article Clinical Psychiatry News

A Twist on Dual Diagnosis

Magazine article Clinical Psychiatry News

A Twist on Dual Diagnosis

Article excerpt

Now that we are solidly in the 21st century and know the real health effects of cigarette smoking, we psychiatrists should be actively participating in smoking prevention and smoking-cessation treatments.

As medical doctors, we need to change the way we define dual-diagnosis illnesses. Why not consider the dual diagnosis of cigarette smoking and pulmonary disease--or cigarette smoking and cardiac illness--as examples of such illnesses?

The one good thing about smoking is that it is an entirely preventable cause of death, according to Elizabeth M. Whelan. Sc.D., founder and president of the American Council on Science and Health in New York, and a public health expert on cigarette smoking and disease. In her submission on cigarettes as the major preventable cause of premature death in the case of Anderson v. American Tobacco Co. et. al., Dr. Whelan pointed out that as far back as 1984, the American Thoracic Society made smoking the major preventable cause of death and disability in the developed world. Today, of the 2 million total deaths in the United States each year, 450,000 deaths--a full 25%--are directly related to smoking, according to Dr. Whelan. Tobacco use is such a severe public health problem that more than 1 billion people eventually will be killed worldwide by the effects of smoking. This is about one-fifth of all people now living in developed countries, Dr. Whelan wrote.

In my first few years at New York University/Bellevue Hospital Center, I developed one of the earliest smoking-cessation programs in a county hospital. Although it later evolved into the short-term psychotherapy program, smoking cessation was always a major part of its didactic and clinical mission. To help patients quit smoking, I developed my learning, philosophizing, and action (LPA) technique. This cognitive-dialectical approach works not only for short-term psychotherapy but also for habit control. This is how the technique worked with smokers:

* Learning Phase. In this phase, the patient and I discussed the statistics of smoking-related illnesses, such as cancer, heart disease, and pulmonary illnesses. Using the best available knowledge, I helped the patient understand the extent to which smoking was causing severe physiologic damage. I also used this phase to answer any questions the patient had. We explored the positive effects that smoking cessation would yield. As is the case today, the most dramatic results were usually obtained in the area of cardiac health.

* Philosophy Phase. We discussed how the smoking habit had become an addiction and had essentially taken on a life of its own. Whether the habit originated because of peer pressure, as a result of learned behaviors within the family, or through the powerful world of advertising, it had become solidified within the patient's life.

The concepts of addiction and habituation also were explored in this phase. I pointed out that the physical addiction to nicotine is finite in terms of the physical cravings that occur when the patient gives up smoking, and that these cravings disappear in a relatively short time. I also explained that habituation is more psychological than physical, and is linked to behavioral patterns that center around the lighting and smoking of a cigarette, such as always lighting up when talking on the telephone.

The behavioral aspects of cigarette smoking can become so integrated into a patient's lifestyle that they appear to endure longer than the chemical/physiologic addiction to nicotine. These philosophical discussions were critical, because they provided a real--and, from my point of view, desirable--psychological/psychiatric touch to the entire approach. In other words, as the patient learned maladaptive behaviors or lifestyles, he or she also developed habituations that, in the case of smoking, led to addiction. …

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