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Adolescent smokers have a greater risk of developing alcohol-use disorders than nonsmokers

  • Popular and clinical lore support the strong connection between smoking and alcohol consumption.
  • Adolescent smokers appear to have a greater vulnerability to developing alcohol-use disorders.
  • Results indicate that smoking primes the brain for subsequent addiction to alcohol and possibly other drugs.

Both academic studies and casual observation support the view that smokers tend to drink, and drinkers tend to smoke. New research using nationally representative data from the U.S. finds that smokers particularly adolescent smokers clearly have a greater vulnerability to alcohol-use disorders (AUDs) than do non-smokers.

Results are published in the December issue of Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research.

"Smoking and alcohol separately, or together account for more than 20 percent of deaths in the United States," said Richard A. Grucza, an epidemiologist at Washington University School of Medicine and corresponding author for the study. "Cigarettes and alcohol are also known to be 'gateway' drugs, that is, the overwhelming majority of illegal drug users begin their use with one or both of these legal drugs."

"We have known about the link between cigarette smoking and alcohol use for a while, but we have not really asked the question, as the authors here asked, whether use of one could increase the vulnerability of becoming addicted to the other," said Kevin W Chen, associate professor at the University of Maryland School of Medicine.

"Ours was the first," added Grucza, "to examine quantity of drinking in relationship to smoking and AUDs. Our central questions were: Can this association be explained by the fact that smokers are heavier drinkers, or is there something else going on? In other words, do smokers appear to be more sensitive to the effects of alcohol?" The short answer appears to be yes.

Researchers examined data from an aggregate of 2002 through 2004
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26-Nov-2006


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