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A New Trend in Addiction Medicine

May 01, 20243 min read

Understanding the Six Pillars of Lifestyle Medicine


In the realm of addiction treatment and recovery, the introduction of lifestyle interventions presents a transformative avenue for managing alcohol and drug (AOD) dependencies. Hosted by Dr. Ferghal Armstrong, the recent episode of "Cracking Addiction" delves into the vital role of these interventions, particularly focusing on tobacco abstinence as a significant pillar of recovery. Understanding these connections could mean the difference in achieving effective, long-term recovery outcomes.

Each step towards a healthier life is a step away from addiction

Tobacco Abstinence – A Key Pillar in Lifestyle Interventions

Lifestyle interventions in addiction recovery are built around six primary pillars – the feet (exercise), the fork (diet), the fingers (tobacco abstinence), sleep, stress management, and social connection. In the podcast, Dr. Armstrong emphasizes "f for fingers," highlighting it as crucial for those in recovery to abstain from tobacco – a common hurdle facing individuals with AOD issues and mood disorders.Tobacco Usage in the AOD Space

Tobacco Usage in the AOD Space

Data suggests a higher prevalence of smoking among individuals with mood disorders and those undergoing AOD treatment compared to the general population. This demographic also tends to smoke more heavily, complicating their health outcomes further. The metabolism of vital medications can be interfered with by smoking, often leading to diminished effectiveness of treatment for mood disorders and reducing overall life expectancy.

The Benefits of Quitting Smoking in Recovery

While some may argue that allowing patients to smoke during withdrawal is a compassionate act, Dr. Armstrong challenges this notion by referencing evidence suggesting that cessation might actually support detox success and reduce anxiety levels. The introduction of medications like varenicline has also revolutionised smoking cessation, making it a viable option even for those with severe mental health conditions, according to the Eagle study cited in the episode.

Deconstructing Alcohol Consumption Guidelines

Dr. Armstrong provides an insightful comparison between Australian, Canadian, and US drinking guidelines, underscoring the variances in what's considered a "standard drink" in these regions. These guidelines aim to minimize alcohol-related risks but differ significantly in daily and weekly consumption recommendations, reflecting broader public health policies.

The Canadian Perspective on Alcohol Consumption

Remarkably, Canadian guidelines highlight a continuum of risks associated with increasing alcohol consumption levels. From cancer risks to cardiovascular diseases, the approach adopted by Canada offers a clear dose-response relationship, suggesting that lower consumption or abstinence is beneficial for reducing health risks..

Australian and International Standards

In contrast, the Australian guidelines propose a maximum of ten standard drinks per week to minimize harm, which provides a stricter framework compared to the North American models. Dr. Armstrong’s discussion points out the critical importance of understanding these guidelines to mitigate dependency risks and encouraging informed decisions in consumption behaviours.

Recognising the Broad Impacts of Alcohol on Health

Heavy drinking is linked to a plethora of health problems, with alcohol being a significant contributor to diseases like cirrhosis, pancreatitis, and various forms of cancer including oral cavity and oesophageal cancers. Dr. Armstrong stresses that alcohol can adversely affect virtually every system in the body, reinforcing the need for caution and moderation in alcohol intake as part of a holistic approach to health and recovery.


Throughout the informative discussion on "Cracking Addiction," Dr. Ferghal Armstrong illuminates the integral role of lifestyle interventions in managing and recovering from substance use disorders. By focusing on tobacco abstinence and understanding the intricacies of alcohol consumption guidelines, individuals and healthcare providers can better equip themselves to tackle the challenges of addiction. This comprehensive approach not only underscores the importance of broad lifestyle changes but also enhances the potential for successful recovery outcomes.

Watch the episode below

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