Tobacco addiction ‘most undertreated of all mental illnesses’ Re: “All approved drugs for mental health should be available: Provinces vary in what medications they choose to permit,” by Austin Mardon, Opinion, May 12. Canada, especially Alberta, is fortunate to have Austin Mardon to advocate for the needs of people with schizophrenia. His May 12 column accurately questions the provincial government’s reluctance to embrace new and groundbreaking medications. Some of these medications are indeed life-saving. Consumption of tobacco products is the most likely cause of death in persons with schizophrenia (90 per cent are smokers). Those with mental illness consume almost half of all cigarettes smoked. Tobacco addiction, just like schizophrenia, is formally recognized and classified as a mental disorder. Tobacco addiction is also the most common, most lethal, and yet the most undertreated of all mental illnesses. This single disease alone costs Alberta an estimated $1.7 billion per year, and yet we do not have any drugs on provincial formulary to treat this highly treatable condition. This defies all logic. Effective treatment with medications can reduce overall health care costs, improve the quality and duration of life for those with mental illness and their families, and is good for Alberta. Reluctance to do so is false economy. Health Minister Ron Liepert is currently reviewing health reform; a good place to start with is the provincial formulary. This would help persons with schizophrenia live longer and healthier lives.
Austin Mardon, CM
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