Nicotine use can actually promote alcohol dependence, according to a study by the Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) published earlier this year.

R. M. Leao, F. C. Cruz, L. F. Vendruscolo, G. de Guglielmo, M. L. Logrip, C. S. Planeta, B. T. Hope, G. F. Koob, O. George. Chronic Nicotine Activates Stress/Reward-Related Brain Regions and Facilitates the Transition to Compulsive Alcohol Drinking. Journal of Neuroscience, 2015; 35 (15): 6241 DOI: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.3302-14.2015

If you are a drinker who also smokes, this could be life-changing information for you if you recognize in yourself the third Early Warning Sign of Alcoholism:

You find yourself drawn to alcohol no matter what you are doing, and you find it hard to stop once you start drinking.”

Why do smokers have a five to ten times higher risk of developing alcohol dependence than non-smokers? Do they have a greater tendency to addiction in general or is there something about nicotine that is linked to increased alcohol consumption?

The Scripps study clearly showed that nicotine exposure promoted alcohol dependence in rats.

It’s a vicious cycle,” said TSRI biologist Oliver George, a senior author of the study. “Nicotine makes individuals crave alcohol to reward the brain and reduce stress.”

The researchers also showed that the combination of nicotine and alcohol activated a unique group of neurons. This activation provided positive reinforcement to continue the alcohol and nicotine use.

The rats in the study that were exposed to both nicotine and alcohol vapor began drinking the equivalent of a six-pack in just three weeks.

We had never seen such a rapid escalation of alcohol drinking before,” said George.

How Can I Use This Information?

If you are drawn to alcohol and find it hard to stop once you start drinking, and you’re also a smoker, this combination could be making your situation worse.

If you’d like to stop smoking first, you may want to start here: address nicotine cravings

As always, we’re here for you and with you all the way.

To your good health.