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Heavy Drinkers Struggle More with Quitting Smoking

Heavy Drinkers Struggle More with Quitting Smoking

Quitting smoking is a much more difficult task for people who are also heavy drinkers, according to a new study by an international research team. This may be due to the fact that chronic alcohol abuse increases nicotine metabolism, which often leads to greater nicotine withdrawal symptoms and poorer results from nicotine replacement therapies.

All hope is not lost, however, because when these individuals do quit drinking alcohol, their nicotine metabolism slows down to normal levels in as little as four weeks.

The study was led by Roswell Park Cancer Institute (RPCI) and was a collaboration of scientists from Roswell Park, the University of California, San Francisco, and the Medical University of Silesia and Center of Addiction Treatment in Poland.

“Our study showed that chronic heavy alcohol consumption may lead to an increase in the rate of nicotine metabolism, which could be one contributing factor to the poor smoking cessation rates in smokers addicted to alcohol,” says senior author, Maciej Goniewicz, Ph.D., PharmD, Assistant Professor of Oncology in the Department of Health Behavior at Roswell Park.

“It is an important finding since a faster rate of nicotine metabolism was previously found to be associated with smoking more cigarettes per day, greater nicotine withdrawal symptoms and decreased efficacy of nicotine replacement therapy for smoking cessation. Importantly, we also found that when smokers stopped drinking, their nicotine metabolism slowed down.”

The study was conducted from September 2011 to May 2012 at the Center for Addiction Treatment, an inpatient program providing treatment for alcohol dependence in Parzymiechy, Poland.

The study began with a total of 270 participants that were qualified and willing. Nicotine biomarkers were assessed in 22 participants selected randomly among male smokers from that group. The data collection occurred after cessation of alcohol consumption at three time points: baseline, week four and week seven.

The findings suggest that the participants’ nicotine metabolism normalized by the fourth week of abstaining from alcohol.

“Understanding changes in nicotine metabolism associated with chronic alcohol abuse and recovery during alcohol abstinence could have important implications for understanding smoking behavior and improving smoking cessation interventions for current and former heavy alcohol drinkers,” adds paper co-author Neal Benowitz, M.D., Professor of Medicine at the University of California, San Francisco.

“This could have implications for the timing or choice of smoking cessation treatments in recovering alcoholics.”

The findings are published in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence.

Source: Roswell Park Cancer Institute

Man drinking and smoking photo by shutterstock.

Heavy Drinkers Struggle More with Quitting Smoking

Traci Pedersen

Traci Pedersen is a professional writer with over a decade of experience. Her work consists of writing for both print and online publishers in a variety of genres including science chapter books, college and career articles, and elementary school curriculum.

APA Reference
Pedersen, T. (2018). Heavy Drinkers Struggle More with Quitting Smoking. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 29, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Aug 2018 (Originally: 4 May 2016)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Aug 2018
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