A University of Georgia study finds that substance abuse treatments that target issues such as drug addiction are not being used to wean adolescents from tobacco.

Tobacco addiction in adolescents is oftentimes an overlooked issue because it doesn’t carry with it the stigma that alcohol abuse and other serious drugs do, according to the study’s lead author, Jessica Muilenburg, an associate professor at UGA’s College of Public Health and health promotion and behavior graduate coordinator.

What most don’t realize is that tobacco, she said, “changes the chemistry of your brain and makes you crave whatever your drug of choice is, which is why kicking the tobacco habit with the rest of your addictions is important.

“It’s a drug, but it’s not treated in the same capacity and with the same urgency as other drugs. We are saying to treat it with the same urgency, because relapse is less likely if you treat the nicotine as well.”

Muilenburg has focused much of her research on tobacco use in adolescents and young adults — considering treatment factors that might help them beat these behaviors permanently. For this study, published in the Journal of Adolescent Health, she and her co-authors looked at addiction treatments for adolescents and young adults ages 12-28.

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