When it comes to recovery, it can be easy to lose sight of priorities. This is especially true when recovery is going well. Once we start to experience the benefits of recovering from our primary issue of substance use disorder (SUD), we sometimes jump to “fixing” the next issue a bit too early or even a bit too rigorously. This often happens when it comes to quitting nicotine, and it can affect our primary purpose of recovering from SUD. In this case, nicotine harm reduction may be the “easier, softer way” to address nicotine while in certain stages of recovery.
What Exactly Is Nicotine Harm Reduction?
Nicotine harm reduction is a relatively simple concept. According to the academic journal, Preventive Medicine, “Tobacco harm reduction has been defined as ‘minimizing harms and decreasing total mortality and morbidity, without completely eliminating tobacco and nicotine use.’ Tobacco harm reduction recognizes that tobacco abstinence or never using tobacco is the ideal outcome but accepts alternative ways to reduce harm among tobacco users. Harm reduction does not take precedence over measures that prevent tobacco use and help facilitate the achievement of abstinence, but rather plays a complementary role.”
The “complementary” aspect of nicotine harm reduction is a very crucial one to understand. This is because some people feel that if they do not completely cut nicotine out of their lives, then they are not making any progress. Now, this is simply untrue. Nicotine harm reduction allows for forward momentum without the dangers of nicotine withdrawals threatening the primary importance of recovering from SUD.
What Are Some Effective Nicotine Harm Reduction Methods?
There is little doubt that tobacco products are dangerous. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “Tobacco use is the leading cause of preventable disease, disability, and death in the United States… Each year, nearly half a million Americans die prematurely of smoking or exposure to secondhand smoke. Another 16 million live with a serious illness caused by smoking.” However, while these are significant dangers, they must become secondary when recovering from a more prominent life-threatening SUD. This is when nicotine harm reduction comes into play.
The good news is that there are more nicotine harm-reduction methods than ever before. There are nicotine delivery methods that require no inhalation such as lozenges, gums, patches, and even toothpicks. Other options include nicotine harm reduction methods that do a good job of imitating the act of using tobacco products.
These nicotine delivery methods include e-cigarettes and vaping devices that do a good job of replacing the dangers associated with the chemicals inhalants from smoking. Then there are synthetic nicotine “pouches” that can be used to replace the use of “chewing” tobacco. These are effective options when one needs to focus on their SUD recovery before everything else.
Nicotine Harm Reduction and Sustained SUD Recovery
There is a saying that is used in recovery that goes, “Anything you put in front of your recovery, you are going to lose.” This also applies to those aspects of self-improvement that we focus on too intently.
For example, some individuals fall into the trap of trying to “fill a void” that they feel when eliminating substances by exercising. If not careful, this focus on exercise can turn to overexercising, and suddenly recovering from SUD is put on the backburner. However, when this happens, the chance of relapse goes up exponentially, and a relapse makes all of the exercise mute. So, it is a dangerous cycle. The same is true with nicotine.
Ultimately, with nicotine harm reduction, cutting nicotine out of our lives is the goal. This goal, however, is useless if we cannot maintain our recovery from SUD. Now, this is why slowly eliminating nicotine and dangerous nicotine delivery methods is often the safe way to go. Once, our recovery is in healthier standing, then perhaps we will have the bandwidth to tackle nicotine abstinence, but only when we are on solid footing.
Keeping SUD Recovery the First Priority
Priorities and goals are crucial in recovery. For example, for those of us with SUD, our recovery from SUD must always come first.
Also, our goals must always be conscious of maintaining long-term recovery. Yes, nicotine addiction can be harmful, and it should eventually be addressed in a more focused light. But that focus cannot happen if we are not sober and of sound body and mind.
Our Primary Purpose at Lantana Recovery
Here at Lantana Recovery, we understand the importance of breaking things down and prioritizing the treatment of SUD. This includes offering individualized recovery plans that include nicotine harm reduction.
Recovery happens “One day at a time.” Yes, we know that it can feel slow at times. But, if we stay on track and take the next right step, eventually the outcome will be a sustained recovery that allows us to live freer more fulfilled lives.
Nicotine harm reduction methods (such as vaping and/or smokeless nicotine products) can be helpful tools for individuals and their sustained long-term addiction recovery. It is always important to remember that recovering from substance use disorder (SUD) is what is paramount and if harm-reduced nicotine methods aid in this, then that is a good outcome (at least at the current moment). If you feel like you or a loved one is struggling with addiction recovery and/or attempting nicotine harm reduction, we can help you navigate the process. For more information on switching nicotine delivery methods and how it relates to sobriety, please reach out to Lantana Recovery today at (866) 997-2870.