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Cigarette smoking exacerbates alcohol-induced brain damage

brains, particularly the frontal lobes, which are critically involved in higher-order cognitive functions such as problem solving, reasoning, abstraction, planning, foresight, short-term memory, and emotional regulation. "So, is all the brain damage described in alcoholics in treatment due to chronic excessive alcohol consumption," asked Durazzo, "or does chronic comorbid smoking also contribute to some of the damage observed?"

Researchers compared 24, one-week-abstinent alcoholics (14 smokers, 10 nonsmokers) in treatment with 26 light-drinking "controls" (7 smokers, 19 nonsmokers) on magnetic resonance spectroscopic imaging measures of common brain metabolites in gray and white matter of the major lobes, basal ganglia, midbrain and cerebellar vermis. Measures of neurocognitive functioning and laboratory markers of drinking severity and nutritional status were also compared.

"Results indicate that chronic cigarette smoking increases the severity of brain damage associated with alcohol dependence," said Durazzo. "That is, the combined effects of alcohol dependence and chronic smoking are associated with greater regional brain damage than chronic alcoholic drinking or smoking alone. Our studies show that this exacerbation of the alcohol-induced brain damage is most prominent in the frontal lobes of individuals studied early in treatment."

Durazzo noted that frontal-lobe functions are applied in multiple contexts of everyday life. "Therefore, exacerbation of alcohol-induced damage to the tissue of the frontal lobes by chronic cigarette smoking may further compromise recovering alcoholics' ability to successfully execute more challenging activities of daily living or accurately judging or anticipating the consequences of their actions, particularly with increasing age," he said.

Cigarette smoking, independent of alcohol consumption, was also found to have adverse effects on neuronal viability and cell membranes in the midbrain and on
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14-Dec-2004


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