Alcoholics have a higher proclivity for nicotine as drinking and smoking cigarettes go hand in hand. Previous studies have shown that 80 percent alcoholics smoke cigarettes and that most of these smokers are nicotine dependent. Conversely, people who smoke also have 2-3 times greater risk for alcohol dependence than non-smokers.
Yet, tobacco dependence treatment is seldom included in alcohol abstinence programs. This could be largely because of concerns that addressing both the addictions would upset the treatment procedure and adversely impact recovery from alcoholism. However, researches show that it is just a lopsided belief and does not hold true.
Smoking cessation during recovery raises the chance of long-term sobriety in alcoholics, apart from affecting alcohol abstinence. However, it has been observed that smokers face various hurdles during alcohol detox programs related to smoking cessation. Hence, it is necessary for clinicians and researchers to debunk various myths around the subject and come up with ways to best treat these patients’ tobacco dependence.
Myths associated with smoking cessation and alcohol abstinence:
- Smoking is less harmful than alcoholism: The most prevalent myth surrounding smoking vis-à-vis alcoholism is that it is considered benign when compared to drinking. The short-term effects of alcoholism may appear more dangerous than smoking, but stats show that more alcoholics die from smoking-related diseases than from alcohol-related illness. Often, synergistic exacerbation of health risks stems from comorbid smoking and alcoholism.
- Alcoholic smokers have neither interest nor ability to quit smoking: Data reveals that almost 80 percent smokers in alcohol abstinence programs are keen on kicking the butt. However, due to lack of comprehensive treatment procedures to address nicotine addiction, there exists a substantial gap and lack of motivation for smokers. Studies have revealed that merging nicotine cessation treatment into other addiction programs does not negatively affect the treatment or motivation for abstinence.
- Smoking cessation hampers the success of alcohol use outcomes: A majority of the data from previous studies indicates that smoking cessation programs do not implicate the outcome of alcohol abstinence treatments. On the contrary, it has been revealed that quitting tobacco by alcoholics raises the likelihood of long-term sobriety by 25 percent. However, continuing to smoke enhances the chance of an alcohol relapse in recovering alcoholics.
Alcoholic smokers have more to lose than non-alcoholic smokers
Alcoholic smokers are more addicted to nicotine than smokers who do not drink. They tend to smoke more cigarettes in a day and have high nicotine dependence score than others. Moreover, alcoholic smokers harbor strong and different views about nicotine consumption. They admit to smoking to thwart the urges of drinking or taking other drugs. Hence, they see some benefit in their smoking.
Another reason for a lack of motivation to quit smoking in alcoholic smokers is that nicotine helps in information processing among alcoholics. Nicotine is known to increase the speed and accuracy of information processing.
Available treatment options
Simultaneous treatment for both alcoholism and smoking cessation is possible when researchers and clinicians take into account the characteristics of tobacco dependence in alcohol-dependent populations and devise a method best suited to treat these patients’ tobacco dependence.