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

U.S. National Surveys on Drug Use and Health. Randomly selected, household-dwelling adolescents and young adults (n=74,836) were selected from the non-institutionalized and civilian American population and queried about their drinking and smoking practices.

Results indicate that smokers particularly adolescent smokers have a greater vulnerability to AUDs than do non-smokers.

"In general, smokers were at more than a 50 percent higher risk, although the differences were larger in younger adolescents and among light drinkers," said Grucza. "For example, among 15- to 17-year-olds who drank fewer than eight drinks in the month before the survey, more than 20 percent reported an AUD, compared with about five percent among the non-smoking group with the same level of drinking. We conclude that, although smokers do drink higher rates of alcohol, this alone does not explain their higher vulnerability to AUDs."

Grucza said that these findings go beyond the popular view that bad behaviors like smoking and drinking to excess simply tend to "go together," especially during adolescence. "It seems that smoking makes the adolescent brain more vulnerable to other addictions," he said. "Addictive drugs all act on a part of the brain that is described as the 'central reward circuitry.'" Once this system is exposed to one drug, the brain may become more sensitive to the effects of other drugs, as demonstrated by a number of rodent studies.

"Studies like this will set up an alert for those who consider adolescent smoking tolerable to rethink the issue, or perceive the problem differently," noted Chen. "Although we do not know the exact causal relation between the two, the damage to our health is so severe that we need to create a more objective image to reject both smoking and drinking among adolescents."

"Ours is the first study to establish a correlation between adolescent smoking and AUDs that cannot be explained


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