Why Do People Smoke and Use Alcohol?

While alcohol can have immediate life-threatening effects in the form of an overdose, it can also prompt other harmful behaviors like so-called “social smoking” when drinking. As anyone who has ever been to a bar can vouch drinking and smoking is a popular combination. Many people find it difficult to have one without the other. Unfortunately, tobacco and alcohol are amongst the deadliest drugs in the United States.

According to experts, the number of Americans who smoke is decreasing. However, the number of social smokers is rising, suggesting that people tend to have a cigarette when they have a drink.

Smoking Enhances the Effects of Alcohol

The reason that so many people love to smoke when they drink isn’t pure coincidence. There is a scientific explanation for it. It has been found that tobacco enhances the subjective effects of alcohol. This means that tobacco can enhance the high brought on by drinking. Nicotine has been found to boost an individual’s interest in alcohol when they are already tipsy. This creates a vicious circle of craving for both cigarettes and alcohol.

It is to be noted however that this trend was only seen in sales of beer and liquor, but not in wine. The reason behind it is that people who drink wine tend not to smoke. But people who drink beer and liquor are more likely to smoke, and quite heavily too.

There may also be a link between nicotine, alcohol, and dopamine, the chemical responsible for pleasure in the brain. While alcohol increases dopamine, nicotine lowers it, creating a feedback loop that may be hard to break for some drinkers.

Combining smoking with drinking can result in a series of health issues, including:

  • Emphysema, a lung condition leading to difficulty breathing
  • Lung cancer, which can be caused by both smoking and secondhand smoke
  • Erectile dysfunction, which can be caused by both smoking and drinking
  • High blood pressure, which can be caused by excessive smoking and drinking
  • Liver cirrhosis, or deterioration of the liver caused by drinking

What the Research Says…

  • Approximately 90% of alcoholics also smoke, according to data collected by the National Institutes of Health.
  • Research at the University of Michigan found that drinkers may smoke because nicotine combats drowsiness, a common side effect of drinking too much.
  • Additional findings from Baylor University College of Medicine pointed to a link between nicotine and an increased desire for alcohol, indicating that smoking may alter the brain’s desire for alcohol.
  • Scientists from the Washington University School of Medicine analyzed:
  • State per capita alcohol consumption from 1980 to 2009
  • State price per pack of cigarettes, and
  • Smoke free policies

They found that when cigarette taxes increased and smoke free policies were strengthened, it decreased the overall alcohol consumption. This information can also be helpful on an individual level, suggesting that those individuals who wish to cut down on their alcohol consumption may find more success if they also stop smoking.

If you are looking for more information and resources on smoking and drinking, call The Villa. We can help you get started on your journey to recovery.