Wednesday, September 1, 2010
It is quite common for people who drink alcohol to smoke cigarettes in conjunction with drinking, they seem linked it many ways; when some people drink alcohol they crave a cigarette even if they are non-smokers. It wasn't that long ago that people could smoke cigarettes in just about any bar in America. People who try to quit smoking often relapse when they drink alcohol, which makes one think that there is a connection worth looking into. Alcoholics who are in recovery generally have a difficult time quitting cigarettes once the alcohol is out of the picture.
Researchers conducted "A post-mortem analysis of gene expression in the brains of smokers, alcoholics and those who had done both during their lives", according to the New Scientist. They found that a group of genes in the nucleus accumbens - the pleasure center of the brain - were expressed most strongly in their group of alcoholic smokers (Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research, DOI: 10.1111/j.1530-0277.2010.01207.x). The study was conducted by Traute Flatscher-Bader at the University of Queensland in Brisbane, Australia. They believe that drinking and smoking is not purely a social activity, rather, when people drink and smoke they are rewarding the nucleus accumbens more. "These genes play a role in rewiring the neurons in the nucleus accumbens. That means people who both smoke and drink might get a greater reward, making it harder for them to quit", says Flatscher-Bader.
Understanding the link between cigarettes and alcohol may help professionals provide more effective treatment plans. At the end of the day, any substance that tricks the nucleus accumbens into releasing pleasurable feelings is harmful to the brain. Introducing substances like drugs and alcohol into the blood stream will affect the brain and often times addictions form. There are some experts who believe that cigarettes are responsible for addicts in recovery relapsing, even though most treatment facilities allow clients to smoke.