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Smoking among bipolar sufferers a concern

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 30/03/2017 Sarah Wiedersehn

The rate of smoking among Australians with bipolar disorder is unacceptably high and its crucial they get help to quit, say concerned psychiatrists.

Research shows nearly two-thirds (61 per cent) of people with the mood disorder - in which people have times of low and elevated moods - smoke tobacco.

With smoking a major cause of reversible heart disease, the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists (RANZCP) says it's "crucial" this rate is brought down.

However, just quitting can be more difficult for people who struggle with bipolar often because their dependence on nicotine is "more severe".

Because of this a of group public health experts and psychiatrists, Dr Ratika Sharma, Professor David Castle and Dr Colin Mendelsohn, have argued the case for electronic cigarettes to be encouraged as an alternative to tobacco smoking.

"Additional approaches are urgently needed to reduce the devastating consequences to physical and mental health in those who are unable or unwilling to quit with conventional treatments. One novel option is switching to long term use of electronic cigarettes," they wrote in the Australian & New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry.

Switching from tobacco to e-cigarettes has the potential to substantially reduce the health, financial and social equity gap experienced by this disadvantaged group, they say.

They wrote: "Adherence to treatment is more likely if the products used are acceptable to patients. According to the Smoking Toolkit study (United Kingdom), e-cigarettes are now the most popular aid to quitting in the United Kingdom."

The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists (RANZCP) welcomes the discussion.

"People with mental illness experience significantly poorer physical health and a reduced life expectancy of 15 -20 years compared to the general population - this is an unacceptable situation," said RANZCP president Professor Malcolm Hopwood.

"We need to look at a range of harm minimisation strategies when we address the poor physical health of people with severe mental illness and the College is pleased to see work being done in this area," Professor Hopwood said.

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