4 Obstacles to Getting Heroin Treatment and Getting Sober

heroin treatmentTreatment facilities are packed. Jam packed. Inpatient rehab? It is expensive. Insurance companies? They are refusing coverage. Addicts are looking to get clean from heroin, a tiring uphill battle. And it seems like we will never be able to help every single person who wants it. 

Here are the 4 obstacles to getting heroin treatment and getting sober (at least the biggest ones):

Withdrawal: Withdrawal is most opiate users worst nightmare. Especially heroin users. Heroin addicts will begin to crazy racing thoughts, their bones will hurt, they will begin to sweat, and it will start to feel like the world is going to end. Hot and then cold, cold and then hot. The withdrawal itself doesn’t kill, but it can cause many addicts to just to give up and go back to using heroin. With a now lowered tolerance, many overdose, and then a few die. Withdrawal is tough. And we get it. It is one of the biggest obstacles to getting sober.  But withdrawal can be overcome and there is a higher chance of making it through it if you have the help from a facility. That is if you can find a bed, which brings us to our second obstacle.

Lack of beds: The number of people using heroin the United States has nearly doubled from 2007 to 2012 to some 669,000 people and more people are now seeking treatment for their problem. But of the 23.1 million Americans who needed treatment for drugs and/or alcohol in 2012, only 2.5 million people received help from a facility. There just aren’t enough beds at treatment facilities, or there aren’t enough facilities in general. There are about 12,000 addiction treatment programs nationwide, according to the nonprofit Treatment Research Institute in Philadelphia. Of those, only 10% are residential facilities, and about 80% are outpatient programs. The other 10%? They are methadone clinics. So let’s say you do manage to find a bed, how are you going to pay for it? Here is obstacle number 3.

The Constant Battle with the Insurance Company: While most insurance policies state that they allow coverage up to 30 days in a residential treatment center, nobody actually gets those 30 days and if they do, there is usually a high deductible that has to be paid somehow. The average duration in residential care? It is usually 11 to 14 days. So let’s say you want to pay out of pocket? What is it going to run you? Well, here is obstacle number four.

The Cost: If you are paying out of pocket, a 30 day inpatient stay could cost you ONLY 5,000 dollars. But the average cost is usually around 30,000 dollars. The cost of a heroin detox only is usually around 3,000 dollars and that is for 3 to 5 days of care. Most clinics require payment up front if insurance can’t be used. 

Luckily there are numerous ways around these obstacles and we know the roads to take. Nothing has to stand in the way of you getting help for yourself or your loved one. All of these obstacles are surmountable even though they are there. If you need treatment for yourself or a loved one, get expert help and advice. Wicked Sober is in the business of helping those are suffering from the disease of addiction and alcoholism. No one has to wait to get help because of these obstacles. So don’t. Let us help you! 

Mayor Walsh Announces The Examination of Boston’s Addiction and Recovery Services

marty walsh

(Boston, MA, 02/05/14) Staff Photo by Nancy Lane

On April 9th, Mayor Marty Walsh announced that the City of Boston’s addiction and recovery services would be getting an upgrade, taking a huge step towards one of the more personal platforms of his campaign for the mayor’s seat. 

“My administration is committed to bringing new support to the recovery community as part of our public health and public safety plans,” said Mayor Walsh in a prepared statement. “We’re connecting the dots to make sure people get access to treatment.”

The AP, reported that many heroin addicts across the country struggle to find beds in treatment centers, and they also have to pay for the expensive services that insurance companies don’t pay for. 

Collaborating with the Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts Foundation, a grant and research organization that works to expand access to health care services in Mass, the city will create an expert advisory committee to evaluate the status of addiction and recovery services in Boston. Their work will build into a study that is expected this year, and will lay the foundation for a new Office of Recovery Services that will run out of the Boston Public Health Commission, and it will be funded by 300,000 dollars of Mayor Walsh’s 2015 fiscal budget. 

“Despite significant and historic health care reform in the Commonwealth, treatment for mental health and substance use disorders remains challenging in terms of access, capacity and cost. I think we can all agree that the current system is complex, overburdened and in need of reform,” said Audrey Shelto, president of the Blue Cross Blue Shield foundation in a prepared statement.

Mass state police said there were 185 deaths in four months from November to February due to heroin overdose. Governor Deval Patrick declared a state public health emergency at the end of March due to the increase in heroin and opioid addiction. 

Since 2000, the number of deaths as a result of heroin and opioid addiction has jumped from 363  to 642 in 2011. 



The Overdose Drug Works: Demand and Prices Rising

naloxone nasal sprayThe number of calls to the fire department for suspected drug overdoses are increasingly common in Revere, Mass. So common in fact, the department responded to 16 overdose calls in 6 days in February. 

And Revere isn’t alone with those kinds of numbers. Across the country there has been a spike in opioid overdoses. We have seen article after article, story after story of it. In several states the government agencies and health clinics are working to provide an anti-overdose drug, Naloxone, to as many people as possible. But even as use of the drug is rising so is its cost. Supply and demand. 

Revere is one of the five Massachusetts communities participating in a state pilot program where emergency responders administer the nasal spray which we have talked about before. The nasal spray form of the drug Narcan, that reverses the effects of an opioid overdose. There have been more than 2,500 reported opioid overdose reversals in Mass since the program began seven years ago. 

“It’s just incredible, it’s like magic,” says Michael Viviano, Revere’s deputy fire chief. “There’s somebody who’s on the ground who’s literally dead. They have no pulse. Sometimes they’re blue, sometimes they’re black. And you administer this stuff and sometimes, in a minute or two or three, they’re actually up and talking to you.”

BUT, even with Narcan overdose deaths are still happening. Exact numbers haven’t been found out yet, but Mass State Police recently released figures that showed around 185 deaths from heroin overdoses in the past four months. And that is probably  much lower than the actual number of overdose deaths because it doesn’t include prescription drug overdoses, or overdose numbers from Boston, Worcester, and Springfield where heroin is a huge problem.

The Cost of Narcan

Narcan is handed out for free at scheduled trainings to use the drug. And the cost of the drug has increased. Pharmaceutical company, Amphastar Pharmaceuticals, manufacturers of Narcan in the dosage that’s used as a nasal spray. Seven years ago, Mass could get the spray at 22 dollars a kit. Now it is 42 dollars a kit. 

And many people to seem the think that the reason the price has doubled is because, well, the pharmaceutical company knows what they have. A life saving toolkit that is figuratively priceless. 

Seventeen states now use Narcan, and many officials are urging the federal government to step in so the drug can be even more widely distributed at a reasonable cost. 

Celebrate St.Patrick’s Day Sober

iStock_000012348714SmallBelieve it or not St. Patrick’s Day was a dry holiday up until about 40 years ago. So if you are celebrating your St. Patrick’s Day sober than just think of yourself as vintage, original and classic. On that note, also find some fun and inspiring ways to enjoy St. Patty’s without the booze. They say St. Patrick’s Day falls right behind Thanksgiving and umm, I think it’s New Years in drinking. So finding ways to celebrate might be tough, but it doesn’t have to be. Here are some great ways to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day Sober. 

Find a Parade

Most major cities (and more than a few small towns) will have some sort of St. Patrick’s Day parade complete with leprechauns, four-leaf clovers, festive music and every other stereotypical “Irish” tradition associated with this fun holiday. Search on the Internet and head out early with the family to find a good spot to sit and soak in the activities.

Watch Great Movies

The weather in the middle of March tends to be cool, which makes the idea of staying in for a night on the couch even more inviting.  Of course, there are those awful guilty-pleasure Leprechaun movies but you can also check out some great Irish films including Leap YearOnceFinian’s RainbowWaking Ned Divine orAngela’s Ashes.

Play Dress Up

St. Patrick’s Day is known for being a bit silly and over-the-top. Find some giant hats, oversized sunglasses, fake pots of gold, flashing jewelry, press-on tattoos and more to celebrate the occasion (don’t forget something that says “kiss me, I’m Irish!”). Feel free to decorate your home, office or car too!

Make “Green” Food

Food coloring is a great way to take some everyday items and make them more festive. Serve green eggs and ham for breakfast, bake green cupcakes for your workplace or go with more traditional foods such as cream of potato soup (green coloring is optional!), Irish soda bread, stew, corned beef or shepherd’s pie.

Twist and Shout

Above all, remember that you can have a lot of fun singing and dancing your cares away while staying sober. Organize a night out with friends or have everyone over for an evening of fun, then let yourself get lost in the music and good times. If your friends insist on going on, go with them and be the designated driver.

It might seem like you have to chug a pint of green beer to truly experience the bliss of St. Patrick’s Day but there are many ways to celebrate and have a great time.  Have a safe and happy holiday and may the luck o’ the Irish be with you!

No PPO? No Treatment For You!

no treatment for youFrom an outside perspective it looks like Massachusetts, and more specifically Boston, are on the cutting edge of drug prevention programs and dealing with addiction. But when you get right into the thick of it you start to realize that something is seriously wrong. There is an absolutely fatal flaw within the Massachusetts drug treatment system. This is especially true for those with Mass Health. No PPO? No treatment for you. Even if you really, really want it. 

When you have Mass Health you’re or just a part of the whole ensuing chaos that is the Massachusetts drug treatment system you’re basically screwed. The treatment options in Massachusetts are few and far between and where there are treatment centers or really rather detox centers, they can only offer days or at the most two weeks worth of care, max. This might not sound bad but for those of us that know the disease of addiction and the way it takes hold on people, in no way shape or form is a detox of 3 days or treatment of 2 weeks, even close enough to being effective or helpful. 

And this is one of the fatal flaws within the Massachusetts drug treatment system. The fact that not only are there limited options when it comes to getting help, and if someone does try to get help they spend the majority of their time on waiting lists, in holding, or trying to get some sort of referral into the next phase of their treatment process. And the lack of care as well as the inability to even get people the help they need all gets put on the shoulders of the case workers. The case workers within the state of Massachusetts are dealing with a serious backlog of individuals who need treatment and they have no other option other than to send them on their sick and addictive way. Why? Because every available option for help is full, holding has to be referred, or you may not be able to go to holding period. It isn’t an easy process for those trying to finally put their dark and destructive ways behind them and it isn’t any easier for the case workers. The case works watch addicts come in and out of their doors. Round and round on the merry go round that is the Mass Health system, and so the sick never truly have the opportunity to get better. 

It’s scary and it’s heartbreaking. I know what it feels like to be sitting 12 hours off knowing I was getting ready to start going through withdrawal. And I had no idea what to do. I needed help. To imagine this not being available because my insurance wasn’t good enough is scary. To imagine a place where I spend not nearly enough time in detox and then was sent back home only to seize out, or just relapse, is devastating. Every addict, should they want it, should have the opportunity to get the help they need. And not just that but they should have the ability to get the best help possible, not the minimum. We don’t half ass the treatment of cancer patients, we don’t need to be half assing the treatment of addicts. Addiction kills. And for someone who does want help to be unable to get it due a flawed system isn’t right. 

I can’t speak as to what is to blame for this extreme oversight of many addicts just because they don’t have the right insurance. But I know that its sad. And ya know, the truth is, even with the right insurance, in Massachusetts there still aren’t many treatment options that are top notch. Most of the addicts in Massachusetts with decent insurance leave the state to get help. It is time something changed. It is time the load came of the case workers shoulders and an effective as well as helpful, and lengthy treatment stay became available to any and all addicts regardless of HMO, PPO, or Mass Health Insurance policies. And while this may never be the case, at least now, the drug treatment system in Massachusetts could clean up their act for those with Mass Health, HMOs or no insurance. 


Not All About Heroin: 19 Crazy Drug Facts that Will Blow Your Mind

crazy drug factsHeroin, heroin, heroin. It is all we are hearing about. In the midst of all the heroin overdoses we need not forget about the other drugs. They are running rampant among Americans, young and old. They kill more people than heroin. And some of them are even legal. Forget about heroin for a second and come with us on the journey towards the next 19 crazy drug facts that will blow your mind. 

1. So heroin is an epidemic right? Well check out these numbers. 70 million Americans are taking LEGAL mind-altering drugs right now. 

2. The prescription drug epidemic is still upon us even with the recent crackdowns. According to the CDC, doctors wrote more than 250 million prescriptions for antidepressants in 2010. 

3. Oh and it gets just a tad bit more shocking. According to a study done by the Mayo Clinic, nearly 70% of all Americans are on at least one prescription drug. And a 20 percent of all Americans are on AT LEAST FIVE prescription drugs. 

4. Where’s all the money going? Well, Americans spent more than 280 billion dollars on prescription drugs in 2013. Big pharma means big money. 

5. It affects everyone. According to the CDC, approximately 9 out of 10 Americans that are at least  60 years old say that they have taken at least one prescription drug within the last month. 

6. Oh and we can’t forget about alcohol. There are 60 million Americans that “abuse alcohol.” That means there are 60 million Americans who are not drinking alcohol they way they should be drinking it. 

7. And illegal drugs? Well, according to the  Department of Health and Human Services, 22 million Americans use (present day) illegal drugs. 

8. Worried yet. Just wait. More than 11% of all Americans that are 12 years of age or older admit that they have driven home under the influence of alcohol at least once during the past year. What????

9. Back to overdose. According to the CDC, there is an unintentional drug overdose DEATH, in the US every 19 minutes. So while you’re in the shower, on your lunch break, whatever, someone dies from a drug overdose and someone else will 20 minutes after that. 

10. More money issues. According to Alternet, “11 of the 12 new-to-market drugs approved by the FDA were priced above 100,000 dollars per patient per year” in 2012. Excuse me?

11. They are spending all that money to have adverse reactions too. According to the CDC, approximately three quarters of a million people a year are rushed to emergency rooms in the United States because of adverse reactions to pharmaceutical drugs.

12. And if you thought heroin was bad..In the United States today, prescription painkillers kill more Americans than heroin and cocaine combined. Probably because there are so many damn people taking them. 

13. The percentage of women taking antidepressants in America is higher than in any other country in the world. Not that surprising…but still.

14. Many of these antidepressants contain warnings that “suicidal thoughts” are one of the side effects that should be expected.  The suicide rate for Americans between the ages of 35 and 64 rose by close to 30 percent between 1999 and 2010.  The number of Americans that are killed by suicide now exceeds the number of Americans that die as a result of car accidents every year. So more people are purposely killing themselves instead of on accident. Great. 

15.In 2010, the average teen in the United States was taking 1.2 central nervous system drugs.  Those are the kinds of drugs which treat conditions such as ADHD and depression. That means the average teen was high on speed, crack, meth, whatever you want to call it, the fact is they were on amphetamines. 

16. A survey conducted for the National Institute on Drug Abuse found that more than 15 percent of all U.S. high school seniors abuse prescription drugs. This was my high school experience. Was it yours? 

17. It turns out that dealing drugs is extremely profitable.  The 11 largest pharmaceutical companies combined to rake in approximately $85,000,000,000 in profits in 2012. Just read that very large number out loud. How do you feel? 

18. Children in the United States are three times more likely to be prescribed antidepressants as children in Europe are. And just a heads up people, pills don’t fix the problem they only cover up symptoms of it. Pills are not solutions which is exactly what the pharma companies make money off of, not making you better, just covering up the fact that you aren’t well. If you get well, they don’t get paid. 

19. In America today, doctors are trained that there are just two potential solutions to any problem.  Either you prescribe a pill or you cut someone open.  Surgery and drugs are pretty much the only alternatives they offer us.

Sit with all this. And have a good day. If you or someone you know needs help from any of above mentioned facts please call us right now. This is what we do. This is our passion. Let us help you find a solution. 

Massachusetts Hits the 2,000 Mark for Opiate Overdose Reversals Using the Nasal Spray Narcan

opiate overdoseMassachusetts announced that the distribution of a drug effective in reversing an opiate overdose has led to a reported 2,000 overdose reversals, but officials and treatment workers say more needs to be done to prevent people from using in the first place. But 2,000 deaths being prevented is huge. It just goes to show that there is really a drug problem but that there is also a solution 

It’s being described as a lifeboat by substance abuse experts. It’s a statewide program distributing naloxone, a drug effective in reversing opiate overdoses. And it seems to be working. The state recognized the program for its 2000th save on Monday. 

State officials and substance abuse workers all over the state said that the milestone was worth celebration but there needs to be even more done to proven people from using opiates in the first place. 

“It reinforces the fact that there is an epidemic out there,” said Quincy Police Lt. Patrick Glynn in an interview following an event to mark the occasion at the Statehouse. “It’s fantastic that there were that many people who were saved. The other side is that it’s sad that the problem is so widespread.” 

With each overdose reversal, it represents an opportunity for that person to seek treatment says Tony Simonelli, CEO of the human service nonprofit Brockton Area Multi-Services Inc., which has made naloxone, better known as Narcan, available to their clients on the South Shore since 2009. Often the experience of being revived from an overdose can galvanize a person’s determination to get clean. 

Our society is very focused on corrections and treatment and more of the resources need to be focused on prevention. Education around the d angers of substance abuse should start at an elementary school level. A greater focus on anti-bullying and mental health services for young people could also help to reduce the number of kids who turn to drugs to deal with problems at home or in school. 

As of right now curriculum is being developed for public school, so they can provide more education about substance abuse. 

There was a recent prescription drug bill that was passed in Massachusetts that requires hospitals to provide the parent or guardian of a minor who overdoses with information on warning signs of drugs use and options for seeking drug treatment. This same law will require pamphlets on the dangers of addiction be given out when prescriptions for opiate based painkillers are filled. 

And while this is great, and of the utmost importance, it is very unlikely that these efforts or pamphlets will prevent opiate use all together. More has to be done. 

How Not to Handle Stress in Recovery

stress in recoveryMy inspiration for this post was my own life. I am just now coming out of a month of seriously overwhelming stress. And my sobriety as well as my sanity was hanging on by a thread during this time. I did everything you probably shouldn’t do when it comes to handling stress in recovery, but I made it through. Which brings me to our introductory paragraph. 

Stress in recovery is going to happen. I mean c’mon, stress in life is inevitable. But when it hits and you’re newly sober or even have been sober for awhile now, it can be overwhelming. Stress wreaks havoc on the body and mind, two things we are definitely trying to keep in good shape while we are sober. When the body and mind start to falter, if we have a strong spiritual core in place we won’t be shaken, as much anyways. And if we are shaken we can handle it. But if the spiritual core is shaky, then when the mind and body start to falter, our entire sobriety can start to falter as well. So however you handle your spiritual core is good, because it is the first step towards handling stress as well. But I am not here to tell you how to handle stress in recovery because that can be fairly easy if your relationship with your higher power is good. I am going to tell you how you can make the stress so much worse. I am here to tell you how you can end up not handling stress in recovery. 

1. Stop taking care of yourself: Taking care of yourself, whatever that is for you, is absolutely essential to handling stress in recovery. If you stop taking care of yourself mentally, emotionally, physically, and spiritually then you are going to end up making the stress 100 times worse. When you are stressed you already feel mentally, emotionally, physically and spiritually drained, just letting yourself go will allow whatever positive energy you have left to leak out. So take care of yourself. My choices for taking care of myself are continually eating healthy, working out, mediation (more of this than ever before), and getting enough rest. 

2. Stop praying and meditating: Once you stop praying and meditating you stop allowing your higher power to help you out. This is part of taking care of yourself. And it doesn’t have to be prayer and meditation per say. It can be however you connect with your higher power. However you tap into the universe, energy, God, whatever you call it, is absolutely paramount during this time. This connection with your higher power will be your saving grace. Staying tapped into it will allow you to handle stress in recovery with grace, courage, and the ability to see purpose. Can you imagine? Stay connected. There absolutely IS a guiding force in your life, follow it. 

3. Don’t talk to anyone about it: Holding it all in can compound the stress. It can be hard to admit that our life feels like it is falling apart or that we are breaking down. Thoughts of using may have popped up. You may need to break down and just cry. Whatever the case is, holding it in and not sharing this with anyone will eat you up and slowly start to tear you down. People do care. And people want to know you are ok. Talk to people about what is going on in your life. Let them know how you’re feeling. Tell them what you are thinking even though you may think they will think you’re crazy. Nothing you are thinking or feeling is wrong, it just needs to be shared. You can’t always carry the burden alone. Which brings me to my next point.

4. Don’t ask for help: If you want the stress to really break you down then don’t ask for help. Try to do it alone. Go ahead and be the strong one that can do it all by themselves. It won’t work. Everyone needs help sometimes. If you need help, ask for it, please. You give yourself a gift when you ask for help and you also give someone the gift of being able to help you and get close to you. Let people love you. Let people ease your stress. That is what real friendship, family, and love is about.

5. Procrastinate on getting things done: If you have things on your list to do, waiting and putting them off for as long as possible is not the best idea. Waiting until the last minute will only compound your stress. So if you have shit you need to do, get it done. Don’t make anything harder on yourself. Make it easier. It may seem overwhelming at the time but if you do it, one thing at time, before you know it, it will all be done and you will be able to breathe a sigh of relief because everything has been accomplished. You can really relax then. 

Remember stress in recovery is manageable. It is done every day. Stressors don’t have to jeopardize your recovery if you know how to handle them. Staying close to a higher power and your friends or family will be the key. You’re not alone. And if you take it one day at a time, as cliche as it sounds, you will come out on top, even better than before. 


Bobby Jenks Talks About His Painkiller Addiction

bobby jenksBobby Jenks helped etch his name in history as part of the 2005 world champion White Sox roster. It seemed like the sky was the limit for the right-hander, who struck out 50 and unintentionally walked 12 in 39 1/3 innings in 2005, his rookie campaign. By 2009 and 2010, his effectiveness had been lost and the White Sox didn’t make an effort to keep him around, instead allowing him to walk into free agency. The Red Sox snapped him up for the 2011 season. Jenks suffered a pulmonary embolism, serious in and of itself, but it also delayed surgery on his back which had issues of it’s own.Once Jenks arrived in Boston, his back grew progressively worse.

Four bone spurs were found on his spine and the plan was to go in and shave them off in December 2011. A plan was set to actually shave off just two, but the surgeon started the third and didn’t finish, leaving sharp bone in two different spots on Jenks’ spine. “It was like laying on your side and having a semi ride over the top of your head,” Jenks said of the pain. He returned to his then-Arizona home following the surgery, sat down on his couch and said he felt a feeling like someone was pouring a bottle of water down his back. That water was spinal fluid. “Just exploded out from the incision,” Jenks said.

“There was a chance that if I would have gone to bed that night, I wouldn’t have woken up.” On top of that, the second surgery had to contend with an infection that nearly reached his brain stem. On top of that, the intensifying back woes similarly escalated his addiction to painkillers, which had started during his final year with the White Sox, but reached a whole new level when the bone spurs started.

Jenks tells Merkin he’s been clean for 18 months, which has helped him reconnect with his young children, although a divorce means he doesn’t see them all the time. Now he says he’s ready to reconnect with baseball, which starts with SoxFest. In addition, Jenks says he would like to attempt to pitch his way back into the big leagues before he officially calls it quits.


Marlboro Man, Eric Lawson, Dies of Smoking Related Disease

marlboro manAs if the major  cigarette companies needed another reason to get people to stop buying their product. Aside from the fact that smoking kills almost half a million people every year, just to add insult to injury here is this little piece of recent news:

Actor Eric Lawson, once the face of Marlboro cigarettes aka THE MARLBORO MAN, has died from respiratory failure due to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), at the age of 72, making him just another number in the tobacco statistics.

From 1978 to 1981, Lawson appeared in print ads as “The Malboro Man,” a rugged cowboy synonymous with the cigarette brand. Throughout his acting career, Lawson also had parts in TV shows The Streets of San FranciscoCharlie’s AngelsDynasty and Baywatch.

Lawson’s wife, Susan, told Variety that the actor had been a smoker through much of his life, starting at the age of 14, though he quit when he was diagnosed with COPD. “He knew the cigarettes had a hold on him,” she said in an interview with Variety. “He knew, yet he still couldn’t stop.”

Lawson isn’t the only former face of Marlboro to die from smoking-related diseases. Wayne McLaren, who appeared in Marlboro print ads, died of lung cancer in 1992, and David McLean, who appeared in print and television spots, died of lung cancer in 1995.

Each year, an estimated 443,000 people die prematurely from smoking or exposure to secondhand smoke, and another 8.6 million live with a serious illness caused by smoking. Despite these risks, approximately 46.6 million U.S. adults smoke cigarettes.

The harmful effects of smoking do not end with the smoker. An estimated 88 million nonsmoking Americans, including 54% of children aged 3–11 years, are exposed to secondhand smoke. Even brief exposure can be dangerous because nonsmokers inhale many of the same poisons in cigarette smoke as smokers.

Secondhand smoke exposure causes serious disease and death, including heart disease and lung cancer in nonsmoking adults and sudden infant death syndrome, acute respiratory infections, ear problems, and more frequent and severe asthma attacks in children. Each year, primarily because of exposure to secondhand smoke, an estimated 3,000 nonsmoking Americans die of lung cancer, more than 46,000 die of heart disease, and about 150,000–300,000 children younger than 18 months have lower respiratory tract infections. Coupled with this enormous health toll is the significant economic burden of tobacco use—more than $96 billion a year in medical costs and another $97 billion a year from lost productivity.

Cigarette smoking accounts for at least 30% of all cancer deaths. It is linked with an increased risk of these cancers:

  • Lung
  • Larynx (voice box)
  • Oral cavity (mouth, tongue, and lips)
  • Nose and sinuses
  • Pharynx (throat)
  • Esophagus (tube connecting the throat to the stomach)
  • Stomach
  • Pancreas
  • Cervix
  • Kidney
  • Bladder
  • Ovary (a type called mucinous ovarian cancer)
  • Colorectum (the colon and/or the rectum)
  • Acute myeloid leukemia

Smoking accounts for 87% of lung cancer deaths. Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death in both men and women, and is one of the hardest cancers to treat.

Lung cancer can often be prevented. Some religious groups that promote non-smoking as part of their religion, such as Mormons and Seventh-day Adventists, have much lower rates of lung cancer and other smoking-related cancers.

Other health problems caused by smoking

As serious as cancer is, it accounts for less than half of the deaths related to smoking each year. Smoking is a major cause of many other deadly health problems − heart disease, aneurysms, bronchitis, emphysema, and stroke.

Using tobacco can damage a woman’s reproductive health and hurt babies. Tobacco use is linked with reduced fertility and a higher risk of miscarriage, early delivery (premature birth), and stillbirth. It’s also a cause of low birth-weight in infants. It has been linked to a higher risk of birth defects and sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), too.

Smoking can make pneumonia and asthma worse and it has been linked to other health problems, including gum disease, cataracts, bone thinning, hip fractures, and peptic ulcers. Some studies have also linked smoking to macular degeneration, an eye disease that can cause blindness.

Smoking can cause or worsen poor blood flow in the arms and legs (peripheral vascular disease or PVD.) Surgery to improve the blood flow often doesn’t work in people who keep smoking. Because of this, many vascular surgeons (surgeons who work on blood vessels) won’t do certain surgeries on patients with PVD unless they stop smoking.

The smoke from cigarettes (called secondhand smoke or environmental tobacco smoke) can also have harmful health effects on those exposed to it. Adults and children can have health problems from breathing secondhand smoke.

Cigarette smokers die younger than non-smokers. In fact, according to a study done in the late 1990s by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), smoking shortened male smokers’ lives by 13.2 years and female smokers’ lives by 14.5 years. Men and women who smoke are much more likely to die between the ages of 35 and 69 than those who have never smoked.

But not all of the health problems related to smoking result in deaths. Smoking affects a smoker’s health in many ways, harming nearly every organ of the body and causing many diseases. The diseases often seen are chronic bronchitis, emphysema, heart attacks, strokes, and cancer. And some studies have found that male smokers may be more likely to be sexually impotent (have erectile dysfunction) than non-smokers.

These problems can steal away a person’s quality of life long before death. Smoking-related illness can limit a person’s daily life by making it harder to breathe, get around, work, or play.