Smoking greatly increases recovering alcoholics’ risk of relapse, a new study warns.
“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,” said lead author Renee Goodwin. Goodwin is an associate professor of epidemiology at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health in New York City.
The study included tens of thousands of recovering alcoholics in the United States who were followed for three years.
Smokers were two times more likely than nonsmokers to start drinking again, even after the researchers accounted for factors such as mood and anxiety disorders, illicit drug use and nicotine dependence.
The study was recently published online in the journal Alcoholism: Experimental and Clinical Research.
It’s not clear why smoking seems to increase recovering alcoholics’ risk of relapse. However, the study authors said previous research identified behavioral and brain chemical links between smoking and drinking.
Treatment for alcoholism typically includes treatment for illicit substance use, but not for smoking, which is common among problem drinkers, the researchers said.
It’s thought that asking alcoholics to quit smoking while they try to curb their drinking is “too difficult,” Goodwin said in a university news release. She said it’s also been assumed that smoking makes no difference to drinking abstinence in the long run.
The U.S. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism has more about treatment for alcohol problems.