Study explains why alcohol drinkers smoke

29th October, 2015 by Melita Kiely

Scientists believe they are one step closer to finding a solution to curb alcohol and nicotine addictions after discovering nicotine cancels the sleep-inducing effects of alcohol.

Smoking-and-alcohol

A new study has found a link between alcohol addiction and nicotine addiction

Previous research suggested more than 85% of US adults who are alcohol-dependent were also nicotine dependent, and the new data from the University of Missouri School of Medicine found that nicotine “feeds off” alcohol.

“We know that many people who drink also use nicotine, but we don’t know why exactly that is,” said Mahesh Thakkar, associate professor and director of research in the MU School of Medicine’s Department of Neurology and lead author of the study.

“We have found that nicotine weakens the sleep-inducing effects of alcohol by stimulating a response in an area of the brain known as the basal forebrain.

“By identifying the reactions that take place when people smoke and drink, we may be able to use this knowledge to help curb alcohol and nicotine addiction.”

Using rats as the basis of their study, Thakker’s team found that when the subjects were fitted with sleep-recording electrodes and given alcohol and nicotine, the nicotine acts via the basal forebrain to quash the sleep-inducing effects of alcohol.

“One of the adverse effects of drinking alcohol is sleepiness,” added Thakker. “However, when used in conjunction with alcohol, nicotine acts as a stimulant to ward off sleep.

“If an individual smokes, then he or she is much more likely to consume more alcohol, and vice-versa. They feed off one another.”

The findings highlight why nicotine and alcohol are so closely intertwined and could lead to ways to improve health for those suffering with alcohol and nicotine addiction, according to the study.

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