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Research Summary

Smoking Increases Alcohol Use

Drinking and smoking commonly co-occur. Little is known, however, about how nicotine use influences alcohol consumption. In this study, researchers assessed the desire for alcohol in 15 male occasional smokers* who smoked 4 nicotine-containing cigarettes over 2 hours on 1 day and 4 cigarettes without nicotine (placebo) over 2 hours on another day. During the smoking sessions, subjects could earn drinks of water and alcoholic beverages of their choice by successfully completing a computerized task.

  • Subjects were more likely to choose alcohol than water, regardless of the type of cigarette smoked.
  • They drank significantly more alcohol when they smoked the nicotine-containing cigarettes than when they smoked the placebo cigarettes.
  • Water consumption did not significantly differ during the 2 smoking sessions.

Comments:

These data suggest that smoking cigarettes during drinking sessions may lead to more drinking, which in turn increases the risk of alcohol-related problems. Although the effects of cigarette smoking in people with alcohol dependence need elucidating, healthcare providers should consider multi-behavioral interventions for all of their patients who smoke.

Joseph Conigliaro, MD, MPH
*Smoked cigarettes an average of 2.7 days per week and drank alcohol on 2.3 days per week; all had smoked at least 4 cigarettes during a drinking session at least once in the past year

Reference:

Barrett SP, Tichauer M, Leyton M, et al. Nicotine increases alcohol self-administration in non-dependent male smokers. Drug Alcohol Depend. 2006;81(2):197–204.


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