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Study: Quitting cigarettes helps alcoholics stay sober

Alcoholics who did not quit lighting up when they quit drinking are twice as likely to relapse as nonsmokers.

By
Stephen Feller
Researchers are unsure why smoking increases the chances that an alcoholic will relapse, but they say it is another good reason to quit. Photo by Pe3k/Shutterstock
Researchers are unsure why smoking increases the chances that an alcoholic will relapse, but they say it is another good reason to quit. Photo by Pe3k/Shutterstock

NEW YORK, Sept. 30 (UPI) -- Most people with alcohol use disorder smoke cigarettes, but those who continue to smoke after they quit drinking are more likely to relapse within three years, according to a large study of recovering alcoholics.

Treatment for alcohol dependence often does not focus on smoking and nicotine addiction, partially because of a view that it does not matter long-term and because it is often considered "too difficult" a request while patients are working to stop drinking.

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"What we found is that adults with a past alcohol use disorder who were smokers were more likely to meet criteria for alcohol-use disorders three years later, compared to adults with a past alcohol-use disorder who were not smoking," Andrea Weinberger, a professor of psychiatry at Yale University, told the Yale Daily News.

Researchers at Yale and Columbia reviewed data from the National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions. They considered the relationship between survey responses by 9,134 participants in wave 1 of the survey, conducted between 2001 and 2002 about smoking status, and wave 2, which was conducted from 2004 to 2005 and focused on alcohol use, abuse and dependence.

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Both daily and nondaily cigarette smokers were found to have twice the likelihood of relapsing into alcohol dependence compared with nonsmokers.

Researchers said they are unsure why smoking makes a relapse more likely, suggesting that behavioral and neurochemical links between smoking and drinking may contribute.

"Quitting smoking will improve anyone's health," said Renee Goodwin, an associate professor in the at the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University, in a press release. "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."

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The study is published in the journal Alcoholism.

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