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Quitting smoking may be more difficult for alcoholics

Posted on 06-14-2016 Posted in Addiction, Dual diagnosis treatment, Substance Abuse - 0 Comments

difficult for alcoholics

According to a study recently conducted by an international research team, cigarette smokers who are addicted to alcohol may have an even more difficult time quitting smoking than other smokers.

The results of this study were published in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence.

The study

Scientists have long recognized the correlation between drinking and smoking — in other words, people who smoke are more likely to drink, and people who drink are more likely to smoke.

People who are addicted to alcohol are also more likely to be addicted to tobacco. Researchers have found that individuals with alcoholism are three times more likely than the general population to smoke, and people who are addicted to tobacco are four times more likely than the general population to be addicted to alcohol.

To determine what ties these two addictions together, researchers at Roswell Park Cancer Institute in Buffalo, New York, along with researchers at the University of California, San Francisco, and the Medical University of Silesia and Center of Addiction Treatment in Poland investigated 22 participants who were attending an inpatient treatment program for alcohol dependence. All of the participants were active smokers.

The researchers examined the participants at three time points: at the start of the alcohol treatment program, four weeks after alcohol cessation and seven weeks after alcohol cessation. At each of these intervals, researchers measured nicotine levels and metabolites in the participants’ urine to determine how well their bodies were processing nicotine.

At the first time point, the researchers noted that the participants had higher-than-normal rates of nicotine metabolism. High nicotine metabolism suggests that the participants were processing nicotine very quickly and needed to smoke more regularly to maintain consistent levels of nicotine in their system.

After seven weeks of sobriety, the participants had significantly reduced levels of nicotine metabolism, suggesting that chronic alcohol abuse had been influencing their bodies’ ability to process nicotine.

What does this mean?

Since chronic alcoholism appears to heavily influence the body’s ability to metabolize nicotine, it’s possible that high levels of alcohol use may make it more difficult to quit smoking.

“Our study showed that chronic heavy alcohol consumption may lead to an increase in the rate of nicotine metabolism, which could be one contributing factor to the poor smoking cessation rates in smokers addicted to alcohol,” explained senior author, Maciej Goniewicz, Ph.D., Pharm.D., assistant professor of oncology in the department of health behavior at Roswell Park Cancer Institute in Buffalo, New York, in a news release. “It is an important finding since a faster rate of nicotine metabolism was previously found to be associated with smoking more cigarettes per day, greater nicotine withdrawal symptoms and decreased efficacy of nicotine replacement therapy for smoking cessation. Importantly, we also found that when smokers stopped drinking, their nicotine metabolism slowed down.”

These results may help clinicians craft new therapeutic programs to help people overcome both alcohol and nicotine addiction. Since many people struggle with co-occurring addictions, it’s essential that clinicians understand the best way — and the best order — in which to provide treatment.

At Sovereign Health of Florida, we understand that patients with co-occurring disorders may require a more extensive treatment, have a more gradual recovery process or experience more setbacks. Our dual diagnosis program treats all conditions — not just the patient’s primary diagnosis — increasing the odds of effective treatment and long-term sobriety. For more information, please contact our 24/7 helpline.

About the author

Courtney Lopresti, M.S., is a senior staff writer for the Sovereign Health Group, where she uses her scientific background to write online blogs and articles for a general audience. At the University of Pittsburgh, where she earned her Master’s in neuroscience, she used functional neuroimaging to study how the human cerebellum contributes to language processing. In her spare time, she writes fiction, reads Oliver Sacks and spends time with her two cats and bird. Courtney is currently located in Minneapolis. For more information and other inquiries about this article, contact the author at

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