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.