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Heavy Alcohol Use May Make It Harder to Quit Smoking

Young man smokes a cigarette and drinks alcoholDrug and alcohol addictions carry significant negative physical and psychological side effects on their own, and as it turns out, these addictions can also have a negative effect on concurrent drug or alcohol addictions. An international research team recently found that chronic heavy alcohol consumption may make it harder to quit smoking.

Journal Findings

The findings were published in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence, and the research was a collaboration of scientists from Roswell Park, the University of California, San Francisco, and scientists from the Medical University of Silesia and Center of Addiction Treatment in Poland. The main portion of the research was conducted from September 2011 to May 2012 at the Center for Addiction Treatment, which provides inpatient treatment in Parzymiechy, Poland for alcohol dependence and addiction. Two hundred seventy individuals participated in the study, and of those 270 individuals, 22 randomly selected male smokers had their nicotine biomarkers assessed at three different time points. The three time points were all after cessation of alcohol consumption: baseline, week four, and week seven. According to the data collected, a normalization of nicotine metabolism occurred by about week four of abstinence from alcohol.

Chronic Alcohol Consumption Effects Nicotine Intake

Senior author Maciej Goniewicz, PhD, PharmD, Assistant Professor of Oncology in the Department of Health Behavior at Roswell Park, summarized the findings as such: “Our study showed that chronic heavy alcohol consumption may lead to an increase in the rate of nicotine metabolism, which could be one contributing factor to the poor smoking cessation rates in smokers addicted to alcohol.” In addition, Goniewicz noted that this finding is significant because increased nicotine metabolism rates have traditionally only been linked with smoking more cigarettes per day. He also emphasized that their findings indicate that quitting drinking will slow nicotine metabolism back down.

Further Study Implications

Meanwhile, paper co-author Neal Benowitz, MD, Professor of Medicine at the University of California, San Francisco, commented on the potential applications of these findings: “Understanding changes in nicotine metabolism associated with chronic alcohol abuse and recovery during alcohol abstinence could have important implications for understanding smoking behavior and improving smoking cessation interventions for current and former heavy alcohol drinkers.” Benowitz added that the findings could have implications for the timing and choice of smoking cessation treatments in recovering alcoholics.

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