Teen Cigarette and Food Addiction

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Food and cigarette addiction are becoming more prevalent in the U.S. Some say it is because of the growing wealth and boredom among the youth. However, the addiction problem is becoming too serious and deadly to be ignored. Food and cigarette addictions claim millions of lives each year, lives which could have been saved with the right prevention and intervention methods.

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Teen Food and Cigarette Addiction

Food addiction is more difficult to manage and overcome than heroine or alcohol. It is know n to have a 95% recovery failure rate, it kills approximately 100,000 Americans every year and it is the fastest growing addiction among American children and teenagers and produces billions of dollars in healthcare costs every year.

Most of the evidence for or against food addiction in humans focuses on similarities between food addiction and cigarette addiction. When it comes to food addiction, nutrition professionals are usually part of the team that treats teenagers with food addiction. These professionals usually have expertise on the best nutrition and ways to change eating behaviors.  The best way to treat food addiction among teens is through nutrition therapy, whereby a teenager is given a nutrition assessment, interventions, monitoring and interpretation of the results.

It is essential that the nutrition therapists are well trained in order to have positive results from the patients. The therapists have to be involved in the teenagers individual and group treatment, in-patient hospitalization and outpatient programs

When it comes to cigarette addiction, there are almost 1 billion smokers worldwide and an estimated 8.4 million die each year from cigarette related diseases.  Many researchers claim that most people start smoking when they are teenagers as a developmental process. Most teenagers who start of as experimental smokers usually end up becoming daily smokers, because of lack of intervention.

Research was conducted in Sweden to determine the age at which students start smoking in order for intervention methods to be put in place.  The results found an increase of cigarette consumption between grades 7 and 10, and from the 10th grade onwards, these teenagers moved from being experimental smokers to daily smoker s.  Researchers also found that if students perceived that it was easy to find cigarettes, then that would increase the consumption of cigarettes. Therefore, states should implement and enforce stricter laws against selling tobacco to teenagers, which in turn will help prevent cigarette addiction.

Food and Cigarette Addiction Treatment Methods

Weaning a teenager from food and cigarette addiction like any other addiction has to be gradual. Counseling is recommended once the symptoms subside to deal with the psychological effects of addiction. Addiction treatment programs may work but most teenagers may go back into the addiction if they are placed in the same situations that enabled their addiction in the first place. Individual counseling and group therapy are effective ways to manage the problem.

A strategy that may be used to treat cigarette addiction is motivation enhancement whereby, the teenagers are taught of the effects of continued cigarette smoking such as increased stress and decreased mood. Teenagers should also be taught on ways to avoid or counteract cigarette smoking. Intervention methods such as methods of quitting and how to cope with stressful situations should be taught.

UK survey has shown that whereas many smokers would prefer to quit, only 2% are usually successful in doing so. With such statistics, most teenagers who are smoking will most likely be smoking at the age of 60. Intensive counseling and nicotine replacement therapies have been successful in weaning patients of cigarettes for a year, and should be looked into as a possible treatment intervention method.

Similarities between Cigarette Addiction and Food Addiction

Surprisingly, there is a link between food addiction and cigarette addiction.  Studies show that teenagers who have a food addiction tend to also engage in cigarette smoking.

Food addiction and cigarette addiction have always been considered different diseases and have been always treated differently. However, studies show that the two are somehow linked and similar treatment methods should be used. Cigarettes are known to help people lose weight and because of peer pressure, teenagers who might be addicted to food might be forced to turn to cigarettes as a way of losing weight and in the process they end up getting addicted to cigarettes.

 Food addiction mostly occurs from someone’s genetic makeup, cultural influences, the environment, trauma exposure and someone’s brain make-up, however cigarette smoking may only be attributed to a few of those characteristics.

A teenager’s sociological history can also play a part in determining whether they will be addicted to cigarettes or food. Studies show that teenagers that have undergone trauma, abuse, and neglect or seen parental abuse end up becoming addicts.

The most common characteristics between food addicts and cigarette addicts is that these addictions occur during times of stress or transition, these teenagers have the same brain chemistry, have similar family histories, usually have low self-esteem, have history of physical or sexual abuse, have little adult supervision. Most food and cigarette addiction start with experimentation, but not everyone who experiments becomes addicted.  Family therapy is a successful way of treating food and cigarette addiction whereby the family plays a part in helping the teenager get rid of the addiction.

Differences between Food Addiction and Cigarette Addiction

Food addiction primarily affects teenage girls while cigarette addiction primarily affects teenage boys.  Teenagers who are addicted to cigarettes look for the cigarettes but food addiction teenagers are always trying to avoid eating too much.

As a way of treatment, a teenager addicted to cigarettes can be restricted from taking cigarettes while a food addict has to eat to live. Teenagers who are addicted to cigarettes are encouraged to quit entirely, but food addiction teenagers have to be taught how to have a different relationship with food.  While it might be easier for a teenager who is struggling with cigarette addiction to identify with the disease, a teenager who is addicted to food will have a harder time identifying with the disease. Smoking among teenagers might be considered “cool” while food addiction may have a stigma.

Food and cigarette addiction are intertwined and future treatments will most likely lean towards   integrative therapy approaches which have shown to bear fruit as new treatment methods. Experience in treatment development and clinical studies will guide integrative therapy into the future treatment of food and cigarette addiction.


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