Assen hospital to treat chain smokers like drug addicts

The Wilhelmina Hospital in Assen is launching an experiment in which heavy smokers will be treated in the same way as people addicted to drugs or alcohol. The hospital will have a specialized addiction clinic where a team of medical specialists will treat lung patients who have to quit smoking, but can't manage it, De Stentor reports.

Lung patients referred to the Assen hospital's addiction clinic will first consult with an addiction doctor. This doctor will map out the patient's problems, set up a treatment plan, and coordinate with the medial specialists and general practitioners involved on who will be responsible for what. If necessary, the patient will also receive counseling and assistance from an addiction coach.

With this experiment, which will last 3 months and initially focus on lung patients already being treated by the hospital, the Wilhelmina Hospital wants to map and tackle the total lifestyle of smokers. "Thirty percent of heavy smokers also have alcohol problems," addiction doctor Robert van de Graaf said to the newspaper.  

According to Van de Graaf, insurers do not currently reimburse addiction care for tobacco addiction, while this care is reimbursed for drug- or alcohol addiction. "That's because alcohol and drugs are seen as a real addiction, while smoking is still often seen as a bad habit instead of a life-threatening addiction." The Wilhelmina hospital and addiction care organization VNN are investigating how to change this.