The Argument for Quitting Tobacco while in Addiction Treatment


“Smoking leads to disease and disability and harms nearly every organ of the body,” warns the
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). “Cigarette smoking remains the leading cause of preventable disease, disability, and death in the United States.”
According to the CDC, 14 percent of all adults (34 million people) smoked cigarettes in 2019: (15.3 percent of men and 12.7 percent of women). Among people with substance use disorder (SUD), however, the smoking rates are estimated to be two to four times those of the general population. 
Despite those high rates of tobacco use, concurrent treatment of nicotine addiction during early recovery has been hampered by concerns that these interventions are often not successful in this population or that recovery from other addictions could be compromised if tobacco cessation was included with treatment services.
Despite the well-known health risks, people in recovery are often reluctant to embrace tobacco cessation. Last year, addiction expert John Kelly and others assessed a national cross-sectional sample of individuals in recovery from alcohol or drug (AOD) misuse on whether smoking cessation services (SCS) should be: excluded, available, offered, or integrated into AOD services. The research showed that only about a quarter wanted SCS integrated into their treatment services. 
“Roughly equal proportions endorsed each attitudinal position (23.5 percent excluded, 25 percent available, 24.6 percent offered; 26.9 percent integrated). Correlates of holding more positive SCS implementation attitudes were Black race; primary substance other than alcohol, greater intensity of former or recent smoking, and less mutual-help organization participation; older individuals achieving recovery between 30 and 40 years ago also had more positive attitudes toward integrating SCS.”
Although attitudes regarding the provision of smoking cessation services are part of any SUD treatment are clearly mixed, there may be benefits.
“The potential benefits of addressing nicotine addiction as part of substance dependency treatment may include improved response to interventions for other addictions and, over the long term, reduced tobacco-related morbidity and mortality, wrote James Sharp, Steven Schwartz, et al. in 2003.
They note that the recovery community “has been slow to integrate treatment for nicotine dependence for fear that such an intervention might undermine recovery from addiction to alcohol and other drugs. There is growing evidence that including nicotine treatment in chemical dependency programs may enhance treatment outcomes; many other studies have failed to document any negative effects.”
Professor Kelly and his colleagues found that the “oppositional pattern was accentuated particularly among those with primary alcohol problem histories and those participating in mutual-help organizations. Given the universally well-known negative health effects of smoking, understanding more about the exact reasons why certain groups of recovering persons may endorse such positions is an area worthy of further investigation, as it may uncover potential barriers to SCS implementation in AOD treatment settings.”
Like other drugs, nicotine engages the reward cycle of the brain. “A transient surge of endorphins in the reward circuits of the brain causes a slight, brief euphoria when nicotine is administered. This surge is much briefer than the ‘high’ associated with other drugs,” explains the relevant National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) page. “However, like other drugs of abuse, nicotine increases levels of the neurotransmitter dopamine in these reward circuits, which reinforces the behavior of taking the drug.”
In a treatment environment, people with addiction can no longer turn to drugs and alcohol to cope with co-occurring mental health issues, trauma, or emotional pain. Tobacco is often the one substance they can still turn to when they feel stressed or depressed, hence they are reluctant to quit smoking cigarettes. Sometimes, patients even start smoking in treatment. They are simply looking for substitute substance use perceived as less dangerous—at least in the foreseeable future.
Harmony offers a tobacco cessation group as part of a holistic addiction treatment to help those seeking additional support. If you are interested in beginning a life of recovery and interested to hear more about how quitting nicotine can help your goal, our admissions team is here to help. Begin the process by verifying your insurance benefits online or by calling us at (866) 686-7867.

The Labyrinth—a Powerful Map for Your Recovery Journey

The original Labyrinth in Greek mythology was an elaborate, confusing structure designed by Daedalus to imprison the Minotaur monster. According to the myth, that labyrinth was so cunningly made that Daedalus could barely escape it himself after building it. 

Today, many people would call such a structure a maze while a labyrinth serves an entirely different purpose. “The labyrinth is one of the oldest contemplative and transformational tools known to humankind, used for centuries for prayer, ritual, initiation, and personal and spiritual growth,” wrote Melissa Gayle West in Exploring the Labyrinth. It’s a spiritual healing tool that has no blind alleys, dead ends, or tricks (as in a maze), and you can always see the center. “Once you set your foot upon its path, the labyrinth gently and faultlessly leads you to the center of both the labyrinth and yourself, no matter how many twists and turns you negotiate in the process.” 

“Many walkers see the pathway as embodying a deeper meaning, such as the journey of life. You walk to the center, stop and reflect, then slowly go back to your day-to-day existence,” wrote Nancy Stedman for The Philadelphia Inquirer in April. 

 Spiritual pioneer Reverend Lauren Artress has called labyrinths watering holes for the spirit. “Walking the labyrinth is a spiritual practice that shifts the metaphor of living a spiritual life. Instead of climbing the ladder of perfection, or living a rule-bound life, the labyrinth teaches us that life is a journey to arrive at being conscious in the present moment,” Dr. Artress wrote in The Path of the Holy Fool: How the Labyrinth Ignites Our Visionary Powers

Representing growth and transformation, walking a labyrinth can confer a sense of clarity, peace, and serenity—a valuable mindset on the spiritual journey of recovery from addiction. Addiction treatment at Harmony promotes physical, emotional, and spiritual healing, empowering clients to embark upon the lifelong journey of recovery.

Walking the labyrinth at Harmony serves as a symbolic representation of that journey. You mindfully walk to the center accepting the gift of recovery before returning to your day-to-day existence a changed person ready to embrace a new life of sobriety. 

At the same time, walking the labyrinth is not only a symbolic act. The meditative aspect of the walk is a powerful recovery tool to calm the mind and ward off cravings. “The mind can be stilled and attention paid to the body, the wisdom of the heart, and the graces of being rather than doing,” wrote Melissa Gayle West in Exploring the Labyrinth.

Harmony will give you many tools to cope with the mental stress and trauma that may have fueled your substance misuse. Meditation is often one of the more important tools because it can train your mind to regulate emotions better, stay focused, and overcome cravings. Walking our labyrinth can be part of your meditation practice while you’re in treatment at Harmony.

If you or a loved one are struggling with alcohol or drug addiction, or you have questions about our programs, call us today at (866) 686-7867 to get the help needed as soon as possible. Our experienced staff is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. 

How a Virtual Reality Tool Helps People in Recovery

For more than 50 years, Harmony has been the foundation for sustained recovery from addiction for thousands of people. Treatment methods have evolved quite substantially during those decades and Harmony continues to embrace innovation and new strategies to treat addiction and co-occurring mental health conditions.

Harmony’s chief clinical officer Dr. Annie Peters has built a mental health team that works with clients to address trauma, anxiety, depression, and other mental health issues that frequently drive SUD. Her team has recently started to use virtual reality technology to help patients in the detox phase of treatment. The VR technology enables patients to use mindfulness exercises in a calming, virtual environment while undergoing the fairly stressful detoxification process. “It’s helping clients calm down and feel more comfortable and that’s exactly what we want them to do in detox,” explains Peters.

“Emotional regulation and psychological grounding are crucial in early recovery,” says detox counselor Carla Felts, “especially when clients are going through withdrawal.” The VR allows them to experience a relaxing environment like a beach or a forest in which they do meditation exercises that can counter any anxiety they may experience.

VR Addiction Recovery

“Learning mindfulness in a group setting can be intimidating for some clients at first,” says Felts. “In the VR, they can try it out by themselves. If it works for them, it can definitely become a springboard for patients to engage in more mindfulness meditation throughout their recovery process.”

The novel approach to treating mental health issues was developed by the National Mental Health Innovation Center (NMHIC) at the University of Colorado and is now being used at Harmony. So far, the feedback from clients has been overwhelmingly positive, says Felts. “In detox, clients are not necessarily able to go to a therapy room to practice meditation. At the same time, the environment in the detox room can be loud and activating. The VR gives them an opportunity to create a space for themselves even in this busy place.” Most clients like it so much, they come back and ask whether they can use it again after they transitioned from detox to residential treatment.


Matt Vogl co-founded the Innovation Center to “test new ways to make mental health services of all kinds more accessible to everyone,” as he explains in the Ted Talk above. “Technology has long been viewed as the enemy of mental health, but what if that is wrong? What if it can be part of the solution?”

“The brain processes a virtual image much like a real image, the resulting sense of presence essentially tricks your brain into thinking you’re actually there. In VR, you can meditate anywhere you want to,” says Vogl who has bipolar disorder.

Dr. Peters shares Vogl’s assessment. “It’s much easier to visualize a calming scene when it’s right in front of your eyes. Major stress-reducing skills are about engaging your senses. The more you engage your senses and body functions like breathing, the more helpful it is for the client. When someone is distressed, we want them to be able to soothe themselves and we want them to distract from emotional pain.”

The VR can do just that for most people, but it’s obviously important to get feedback from clients to find out how it worked for them. Not all modalities are appropriate for all clients. The more the treatment approach hones in on individual needs, the more effective it becomes.

Wider Approach to Use Technological Innovation for Mental Health

In order to explore new ways to make mental health services of all kinds more accessible, the National Mental Health Innovation Center has built what they call the Tech Innovation Network (TIN). It is a partnership between the NMHIC and various community, clinical, and technology partners. Deputy director Mimi McFaul, senior project manager Sarah Beary, and program manager Gwen Gaumond coordinate the partnership with Harmony.

“Harmony Foundation has shown an unusual interest in new technology and is open to exploring new research, says McFaul. “Harmony is our superstar site in the addiction treatment sector.”

The NMHIC basically functions as a broker between two sectors: trusted tech partners developing software and treatment modalities on one side and clinical and community sites like Harmony at the other end. “There are now over 100 TIN sites and 5–7 trusted tech partners who produce excellent content, sometimes under our advisement,” explains Gwen Gaumond. “We pass that on to the community sites to explore cutting-edge treatment during pilot or research projects.”

Harmony is an excellent partner because they have a lot of experience with mindfulness in addiction treatment and the capacity to use technological innovation effectively. This makes Harmony a valuable TIN site because “other addiction treatment partners don’t have the same level of expertise,” says Gaumond.

The NMHIC is very interested in any feedback Harmony can provide so the technology can be steadily improved and adjusted. “With VR, in particular, it’s difficult to gauge how immersive it really is for particular individuals,” says Sarah Beary. “Even with something as uncomplicated as mindfulness, many TIN sites come back with different ideas on how to use it. Then we can adjust it for that particular program.”

Research shows that lack of access is one of the root causes of the mental health crisis in America—a crisis directly linked to the addiction crisis because substance misuse is strongly correlated to mental health problems. More access to a variety of treatment modalities is urgently required.

For Harmony, the VR project has been very positive and Dr. Peters is already thinking about expanding the use of VR at Harmony. Program leadership is discussing how this technology may be integrated throughout the treatment experience at the Estes Park campus as well as how it could contribute to recovery support at the new Fort Collins Recovery Center. “Harmony’s latest partnerships with the medical community and technology innovators continue to expand our ability to successfully bring people into recovery,” adds CEO James Geckler. “With every year, we work towards new ways to address issues to individualize care and are encouraged by the strong outcomes we’re seeing as a result.”

Harmony Teams Up With Rocky Vista University to Improve Addiction Training

Rocky Vista Logo

In his groundbreaking report on addiction in America, former Surgeon General Vivek Murthy suggested “a comprehensive approach” to address the substance misuse crisis in the United States including “improved access to evidence-based treatment services, integrated with mainstream healthcare, for those at risk for or affected by substance use disorders.“

Better integration with mainstream healthcare requires better addiction training for medical professionals—among other things. In a new partnership with Rocky Vista University, Harmony Foundation is now providing just that.

RVU was established in 2006 as the nation’s first private, for-profit health sciences university to offer a professional medical degree since 1910. RVU’s College of Osteopathic Medicine grants the degree of Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (DO) and admitted its inaugural class of medical students at the Parker, Colorado campus in 2008.

Recently, RVU added a physician assistant program. The goal of the PA program is to support the development of “clinically competent, collaborative, and compassionate” physician assistants. One of the first students in that program is Adrianne Bryant who recently also benefitted from the trailblazing partnership with Harmony. She was able to learn quite a lot about the treatment of substance use disorder (SUD) during her rotation at Harmony.

Supervised by Harmony’s medical director, Christopher Reveley, MD, Bryant got a “well-rounded look at addiction treatment and what recovery is like,” as she puts it. “I had the opportunity to talk with the psychologist and multiple counselors. I was able to take part in group therapy and learned about managing meds and the detox process. I’m getting a really good overview of the whole program.”

It’s a modest but important beginning. Harmony aims to become an incubator for teaching and learning around the medical side of addiction. Dr. Reveley considers Harmony an ideal place for that kind of training. For many medical professionals, this “may very well be their only experience in addiction medicine before launching into their careers, regardless of whether they become MDs, DOs, or PAs,” he says. “Here at Harmony, we can offer a full spectrum of inpatient treatment. We’re treating all kinds of addiction problems, with all kinds of substances, and we have a fully qualified mental health staff.”

This kind of first-hand experience is often lacking in the medical field. Not many medical schools require or even offer it, despite the current addiction crisis in America. Dr. Reveley can speak from experience. Years ago, when he went to medical school himself, he didn’t have any addiction training at all. Then, when he became interested in recovery and the treatment of addiction after years as an anesthesiologist, he started to look for an addiction medicine fellowship. There were fewer than 50 on offer in the entire United States—in 2015!

“It’s really admirable that RVU has acknowledged the importance of addiction treatment,” says Reveley. “Primary care doctors, in particular, are in the front lines of recognizing addiction in patients and getting them into treatment. So it’s so important for someone like Adrianne Bryant, who might be working in a primary care clinic to know what addiction looks like.”

Bryant agrees: “I don’t think people have a real good sense what drug-seeking behavior looks like, so we may not recognize it all the time,” she says. “This rotation is helping me in that regard because I see people in recovery who genuinely try to get better. Sitting in on counseling sessions, witnessing patients taking an honest look at their lives, I get a better sense of what people struggling with addiction are like, what they were like in active addiction, and what recovery looks like.”

Dr. Reveley hopes that collaborations like the RVU-Harmony partnership will get more medical professionals interested in addiction treatment. Thanks to her Harmony rotation, Ms. Bryant will certainly be in a better position to recognize SUD in her patients and suggest evidence-based therapy for them. That’s a big step forward. “A lot of substance misuse doesn’t result in treatment because doctors simply don’t ask about it,” says Reveley.

Addiction is a complex biopsychosocial disease requiring comprehensive treatment in an integrated care environment. Many agencies can help make that treatment a reality. In the case of the new partnership, Rocky Vista was also aided by the Area Health Education Center (AHEC) which helped with the placement of students. The AHEC Program works with regional offices to build state-wide network capacity in Colorado, strengthening academic-community linkages in four core mission areas: health careers and workforce diversity, health professions student education, health professions continuing education and public health and community education.

Harmony Receives $100K Grant for Local Addiction Needs

Harmony Foundation, a Colorado-based addiction treatment center, announced today that it has received a $100,000 Daniels Fund grant to to support new initiatives in long-term recovery services. These comprehensive efforts will serve to improve access to care with an additional location, providing a non-residential level of care, and exploring new aftercare approaches to meet individual needs.

Harmony Foundation will provide continuing support to alumni and families by creating more robust recovery services and engagement opportunities for those seeking long-term sustained recovery, including:

Opening a new location along the I-25 corridor for expanded aftercare services

Aftercare services are an effective contributor to success for individuals who have completed the primary residential program. Ultimately as these facilities are self-supporting they will provide full-service assessments and an Intensive Outpatient Program open to the greater community.

Providing telephonic and online recovery coaching

Harmony Foundation’s clinical case managers will use technology to help them more accurately monitor the recovery of alumni through telephonic and online recovery coaching. Harmony Foundation will construct a state-of-the-art facility to serve the large number of program alumni and their families who currently reside in this northern Colorado location where currently there are a dearth of resources. This provides discharging clients with accountability and support from a familiar Harmony professional on their early recovery journey.

Expanding chapter groups

Alumni chapter groups provide a regular place to reinforce the tools provided by Harmony Foundation for healthy long-term sobriety as well as continued education through guest speakers. The grant will help subsidize current chapter groups but also expand the number of chapter groups geographically.

“As a nonprofit we have the ability to put mission first, a critical advantage in addressing the disease of addiction because we focus on the disease from the patient perspective,” stated Jim Geckler, CEO of Harmony Foundation. “The Daniels Fund helps us work to continue that mission in both reach and breadth.”

About Harmony Foundation

Harmony Foundation is a nonprofit alcohol and drug addiction recovery program that serves in a collaborative and respectful treatment environment. Harmony promotes physical, emotional and spiritual healing, empowering our clients to embark upon the lifelong journey of recovery. Visit HarmonyFoundationInc.com to learn more.

About the Daniels Fund

The Daniels Fund, established by cable television pioneer Bill Daniels, is a private charitable foundation dedicated to making life better for the people of Colorado, New Mexico, Utah, and Wyoming through its grants program, scholarship program, and ethics initiative. Visit DanielsFund.org to learn more.

Harmony Foundation Annual Gala & 48th Alumni Reunion

JOIN US!

SEPTEMBER 22-23, 2017

It is an exciting year at Harmony and we want to celebrate with you!

We are proud to announce that Tara Conner, Miss USA 2006, will be our distinguished speaker at our Annual Gala. Tara will talk candidly about her struggles with addiction and her very public recovery. Joining us for a second year, Mackenzie Phillips will co-emcee our event with Kevin McKinnon.  Join us for dinner, fellowship, generosity and hope.

We will have a variety of amazing auction items awaiting your bid! All money raised will go directly to the Harmony Scholarship Fund to provide treatment to those without means.

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Special Thank You to Our Generous Sponsors