You may have already noticed that smoking rates among addicts and people in recovery are much higher than the general public. Not only is the percentage of smokers higher, but alcoholics tend to have a deeper addiction to nicotine and smoke more cigarettes than non-addicts. Even among those people who do not abuse alcohol, cigarettes and drinking just go together like peanut butter and jelly. We all know someone who claims to smoke only when drinking. Now research indicates smoking can induce a craving for alcohol to the point of addiction.

Nicotine induced alcoholism

Oliver George of The Scripps Research Institute conducted a study on the way nicotine effects the brain. Using rats, he tested if nicotine would alter their alcohol consumption. After establishing a baseline of how much the rats would drink, he used alcohol vapor to create alcohol dependence among one group. They developed alcoholism in about two months. George exposed the second group to alcohol and nicotine vapor. This group developed alcohol dependence in three weeks.

Researchers added the bitter tasting quinine to the rat’s alcohol. Rats in the first group decreased their alcohol consumption to avoid the bitter consequence of drinking, but rats in the nicotine group kept right on drinking, much like people.

A vicious cycle

The nicotine in cigarettes triggers the reward centers of the brain and increases the craving for alcohol in an effort to reduce the stress that was brought on by the exposure to nicotine. A vicious cycle is created that can trap an addict in a never ending loop of feeling stressed and having a maladaptive stress response. The one-two punch of cigarettes and alcohol proves fatal for millions of people each year.

Overcoming addiction requires more than just willpower. You need help and guidance from the knowledgeable team of specialists at Transitions Recovery. Call 800-626-1980 to learn more about our individually tailored treatment programs.