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Chronic drinking and smoking cause both separate and interactive brain injury

Most alcoholics in North America are chronic smokers. While much is known about the adverse effects of chronic smoking on cardiac, pulmonary and vascular function as well as the risk for various cancers, little is known about its effects on brain neurobiology and function. Symposium participants at the June 2005 annual meeting of the Research Society on Alcoholism in Santa Barbara, California addressed the brain injuries that chronic smoking and drinking can cause separately as well as interactively. Proceedings are published in the February issue of Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research.

"Recent neuroimaging studies of chronic smokers have shown brain structural and blood-flow abnormalities," said Dieter J. Meyerhoff, professor of radiology at the University of California, San Francisco, associate researcher at the Veterans' Affairs Medical Center San Francisco, and symposium organizer. "Specific cognitive dysfunction among active chronic smokers has been reported for auditory-verbal learning and memory, prospective memory, working memory, executive functions, visual search speeds, psychomotor speed and cognitive flexibility, general intellectual abilities, and balance. We also believe that the adverse effects of smoking, just like drinking, likely take many years to impact brain function significantly, and interact with age to produce a level of dysfunction that is apparent on cognitive tests."

Symposium key proceedings included:

- Genetic factors and pharmacological interactions between alcohol and nicotine may be critical determining factors in the very common co-occurrence of chronic drinking and smoking.

"Any behavioral manifestation, including alcoholism or addiction to nicotine, is a result of genetic-environment interactions," said co-author Yousef Tizabi. "Drugs, including alcohol and nicotine, may affect different individuals differently, depending on their genetic make-up. Similarly, drug-drug
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24-Jan-2006


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