Smoking And Alcohol

For many people, smoking and drinking alcohol are two well-loved social activities that appear to go hand in hand. Before the smoking ban came into force in many states throughout the USA and other countries across the world, it was the norm to find any bar or restaurant which served alcohol filled with cigarette smoke too. Nowadays, with many smokers choosing to socialize at home where they can light up as they please; the trend of smoking when drinking continues. Perhaps even more so, as it is often cheaper to drink at home and to drink larger quantities of alcohol, so many cigarettes may be consumed. If you are a smoker, you can probably identify with the relaxed and pleasurable sensation you get after a couple of drinks when you light a cigarette. So, not only does common sense tell us that there is some sort of link between the effects of nicotine and alcohol on the body which makes us feel good, but science is now telling us the same thing.

The Facts

Scientific studies have found that alcoholics tend to smoke a lot more than non-alcoholics. In fact, an estimated 80 to 90 percent of alcoholics are smokers. Furthermore, smokers are 10 times more likely than non-smokers to be alcoholics. Research has also found that even small amounts of alcohol can enhance the pleasurable effects of nicotine on the body, meaning that just one drink is enough to make even a very light smoker want a cigarette and smoke a lot more than he or she usually would. It's also true that smokers who are trying to give up cigarettes are likely to have a relapse and start smoking again while they are drinking alcohol. But why?

Nicotine Loves Alcohol

Some scientists claim that drinkers enjoy a smoke because nicotine counteracts the sedative effects of alcohol on the brain. Having a cigarette keeps a drinker more alert, and reduces the common symptoms of over-consumption of alcohol, such as slurred speech or blurred vision. Subconsciously, people who drink may be smoking too in order to keep themselves perked up and able to keep going for longer. Another possibility is that the drugs interact and in doing so each boosts the other's pleasurable effects. Both drugs increase the levels of dopamine in the brain. Higher concentrations of dopamine make us feel good and create the pleasant sensations we associate with the drug we are using. This is what keeps us addicted and coming back for more. It should be mentioned that some researchers have found that nicotine and alcohol work against each other in the body. In that case, it may be that each drug simply has its own pleasurable and addictive properties. The fact is, however, that most smokers smoke more when they drink.

Quitting Smoking While Drinking

Even if you are only a very light or social smoker, the chances are that you will struggle most to stay off the cigarettes while you are drinking alcohol. It may be that you need to cut down on your alcohol consumption or even cut it out altogether until you get your cigarette addiction under control. Remember, drinking can be done sensibly and unless you are an alcoholic, it should be possible for you to return to drinking alcohol in moderation. By contrast, every single cigarette you smoke is harmful and no amount of cigarettes is ok. You might not relish the idea of making changes to your social life, but this is a matter of prioritizing. In the early stages of giving up smoking, smokers are often advised to remove themselves from situations, where possible, in which they would normally smoke. When you feel ready to return to these settings, you will need willpower and determination. Try going out with non-smoking friends and having just one drink to start off with, to prove to yourself that you can do it. From then on, whenever you are drinking alcohol, you must always bear in mind that it only takes one cigarette to trigger a relapse. See our section on stopping smoking for more advice and guidance and seek help from your doctor to quit smoking.