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Why Are Nicotine and Alcohol Linked?
Few drugs are as closely associated as nicotine and alcohol. The image of a smoky bar has been a literary trope for centuries, and a common setting of film and television since those mediums were first popularized. It is also very common for those who rarely smoke to “only smoke when they drink.” This is an especially tragic combination as nicotine and alcohol both cause significant long-term health complications, complications which are often worsened by the continuing abuse of the other drug.
What Is Nicotine?
Nicotine is a highly addictive substance found in tobacco products, including cigarettes, hookahs, and cigars across the US. Currently, 50 million people in America use nicotine products in their daily lives, many of whom are trying to quit yet struggle to do so. Tobacco comes from the tobacco plant, the leaves of which are fermented and added to tobacco products. The nicotine in tobacco products causes many to become addicted. Individuals craving nicotine can also use smokeless tobacco products in snuff, chewing tobacco, and tobacco lozenges.
When someone inhales nicotine, chemicals are released in the brain that quickly attaching to the various receptors. The hearts rate increases, blood pressure increases, and dopamine is released in the body. However, Nicotine is also full of contaminants that can damage cells and may impact male and female fertility in reproduction.
Individuals craving cigarettes or other nicotine products can become addicted rather quickly. Health effects include higher risk of death via lung cancer and heart disease. If expectant mothers smoke, they can easily subject their children to learning and behavioral problems. Nicotine use has long-term effects like:
- Appetite increase
- Cravings for tobacco products
- Problems focusing
- Withdrawal symptoms
- Inability to control addiction
- Possible overdose, although uncommon
Individuals can smoke anywhere from 3 cigarettes to a pack or more a day. External circumstances like stress or trauma can encourage more frequent cigarette use. Genetics can play a role in smoking as well as alcoholism. Cravings are not easy to knock, as the more exposure to nicotine, the more the brain chemical compounds change. Individuals who smoke often put non-smokers at risk of second-hard smoke-related health conditions.
Nicotine and Alcohol Combined
Alcohol, a substance that causes many symptoms in the body is a chemical often paired with cigarettes and cigars. People who smoke are more likely to abuse alcohol; many times, it is by availability of alcohol. Why is this? People who smoke often frequent bars where alcohol is available on tap.
Individuals can easily yield to the temptation of alcohol whenever they go to these areas. Studies confirm this link between alcohol and tobacco, noting 80 to 90% of alcoholics use tobacco products. Theories as to why range include the increase of neurological chemicals released when the substances attach to brain receptors. Since alcohol and nicotine increase dopamine in the brain, the combination of both substances can make a puff feel more addictive.
Nicotine and Other Drugs
Many people enjoy combining nicotine with other substances to increase the feelings of adrenaline felt in the body. Studies conducted at the Columbia University have concluded cigarettes are gateway drug and can make the brain more susceptible to other drugs. In fact, the studies said, nicotine “primes the brain for cocaine use.”
Like the nicotine and alcohol combination, nicotine greatly enhances the effects of cocaine when combined. Cocaine use doesn’t impact nicotine use the way nicotine impacts cocaine use. Although cigarette smokers may not necessarily transition to abusing other drugs, there is certainly a link.
Quitting Nicotine Addiction
Although nicotine is said to be as addictive than heroin, quitting is not an impossible task. Many products are widely available to support those who want to quit. Nicotine patches are some of the most commonly used products for nicotine addiction. Medications like Bupropion and Varenicline are prescribed for nicotine abuse. Therapies in facilities also assist individuals struggling to wean themselves from. Knowledge of the effects of substances on the mind and body, along with moderation are key.
Coping with Alcoholism and Nicotine Addiction
If you are trying to stop using alcohol, but your nicotine addiction is making it more difficult for you, you’re not alone. Many in recovery find that nicotine is a trigger for them, one that initiates cravings. Many others find that increased nicotine use serves as a crutch for them as they go through the worst parts of withdrawal and post withdrawal, only to suffer negative health consequences. Luckily, there is help available. Most rehabs have extensive experience working with patients who concurrently abuse alcohol and nicotine. To find out more,contact a treatment expert today.
- Author — Last Edited: February 12, 2019
Martin, Terry. (2018). Important Facts About Nicotine. Retried on July 6, 2018 at https://www.verywellmind.com/nicotine-facts-you-should-know-2825019
Columbia University. (2011). Nicotine “Primes” the Brain for Cocaine Use. Retried on July 6, 2018 at https://www.mailman.columbia.edu/public-health-now/news/nicotine-%E2%80%9Cprimes%E2%80%9D-brain-cocaine-use
T, Buddy. (2018). Alcohol Boosts Smoking’s Effects. Retried on July 6, 2018 at https://www.verywellmind.com/alcohol-boosts-smokings-effects-63479
Mayo Clinic. (2017). Nicotine Dependence. Retried on July 6, 2018 at https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/nicotine-dependence/symptoms-causes/syc-20351584