Smoking may interfere with alcoholics' neurocognitive recovery during abstinence

  • Alcoholics frequently smoke.
  • Many alcoholics in treatment continue to smoke.
  • New findings indicate that smoking may interfere with alcoholics neurocognitive recovery during their first six to nine months of alcohol abstinence.
Alcoholics frequently smoke. Anywhere from 50 to 90 percent of individuals in North America who seek alcoholism treatment are also chronic smokers. New findings indicate that smoking may interfere with alcoholics neurocognitive recovery during their first six to nine months of abstinence from alcohol.

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

There are several possible explanations for the concurrent use of alcohol and tobacco products, said Timothy C. Durazzo, assistant adjunct professor in the department of radiology at the University of California San Francisco, and corresponding author for the study. Nicotine and alcohol may enhance each others rewarding properties; nicotine may decrease some of alcohols negative effects on cognition and motor incoordination; paired use of nicotine and alcohol may produce a strong association between the two substances such that the use of one leads to cravings for the other; and there may exist a genetic vulnerability for concurrent active cigarette smoking and alcohol dependence.

Durazzo added that previous research had shown that chronically smoking alcoholics demonstrate poorer performance in multiple areas of cognitive functioning than non-smokers when they are still actively drinking or after a short period of sobriety. However, it was unknown if non-smoking alcoholics and alcoholics who continued to smoke during abstinence would show comparable levels of recovery after a sustained period of sobriety, he said.

Study authors recruited three groups: 13 non-smoking recovering alcoholics (12 males, 1 female), 12 actively smoking recovering alcoholics (11 males, 1 fe


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