Quitting Smoking May Help People With History of Alcohol Problems Stay Sober

A new study suggests quitting smoking may help people with a history of alcohol problems to stay sober, HealthDay reports. The study of recovering alcoholics found smokers were two times more likely than nonsmokers to start drinking again three years later.

“Quitting smoking will improve anyone’s health. But our study shows that giving up cigarettes is even more important for adults in recovery from alcohol since it will help them stay sober,” lead author Renee Goodwin of Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health said in a news release.

The study, published in Alcoholism: Experimental and Clinical Research, included almost 35,000 adults with a past alcohol use disorder. They were assessed at two times, three years apart. The researchers took into account participants’ mood, anxiety, illicit drug use disorders and nicotine dependence.

The researchers noted that most adults who have alcohol problems also smoke cigarettes. While treatment for alcohol abuse usually also requires dealing with illicit substance use, smoking cessation generally has not been part of alcohol or substance use treatment.

Goodwin said treatment professionals traditionally have thought asking patients to quit cigarettes while also giving up drinking was too difficult. She added it has been assumed that smoking does not make a difference in staying sober in the long run.

While it is not known why smoking seems to increase the risk of alcohol relapse, the researchers said previous studies have identified behavioral and brain chemical links between drinking and smoking.

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    October 18, 2015 at 12:54 PM

    I’m sure there are multiple factors at play here, with one of them being that if you stop drinking but continue to smoke, at some point if you’re feeling weak and craving a drink, it’s a lot easier to say “oh, forget it” if you’re still a smoker because “well I’m already killing myself anyway, what difference does having a drink make?”

    It’s kind of the same as how eating well and exercising go hand in hand. If you don’t exercise, it’s a lot easier to just give in to your cravings for junk food because “well I’m unhealthy and don’t exercise anyway so what does it matter”. But if you exercise, giving into those cravings for junk food feels like a bigger transgression.

    I think the key here is to get people really invested into quitting. That is, don’t just get them to quit drinking, but get them to quit smoking as well, and start exercising regularly and do other things for their health. That way when they think about having a drink, they can’t even fathom it because they’d be “throwing away” all of their hard work.

    Well, that’s just a theory of mine at least.

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