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Cigarette Smoking Impedes Alcohol Addiction Recovery

Posted in Alcoholism

Those who seek treatment for substance abuse usually encounter a screening upon admission to determine whether there are additional substances being used by the patient. For instance, many who enter treatment for drug addiction may be smokers or have an alcohol use disorder.

Screenings often help identify those patients who may require a multi-faceted approach to treatment and recovery. In some cases, treatment can be adapted to respond to the total needs of the patient, but the process of recovery is often challenging when more than one substance is being abused.

A recent study sought to understand how both genetics and the presence of a nicotine addiction might impact the recovery of an alcohol dependent individual. The efforts were focused on military personnel and the challenges present when a soldier has a smoking addiction and who is trying to quit drinking.

Led by Dr. Timothy Durazzo, the study’s findings appear in a recent issue of the journal Frontiers. The researchers found that when a soldier is attempting to stop drinking alcohol and is still smoking, there are impairments in learning, memory and other cognitive functions. These limitations on brain function may impact the recovery process.

Dr. Durazzo hopes that the findings will lead to increased smoking cessation support for military personnel, and especially for those in active-duty positions. The study is based on the finding that smoking rates in the military are up ten percent higher than that of the general population. In addition, as soldiers leave active duty, they run an increased risk of substance abuse and mental disorders.

The research team believes that the findings lend support to the development of a comprehensive smoking cessation treatment program for all military personnel and making it a priority to offer such treatment to those attempting to recover from alcohol and substance abuse problems.

Based on previous research that shows that variations in the COMT and BDNF genes can impact cognitive abilities, the researchers sought to find whether the genes were implicated in variations observed in the cognitive performance of soldiers who were smokers and alcohol dependent.

The study included 70 Veterans, mostly male, who were interested in enrolling in alcohol dependence treatment. The researchers observed the impact of cigarette smoking and the role of genetic influences on cognitive function after a minimum of one month following sobriety.

The findings showed that those who were attempting to recover from alcohol addiction and were also smokers exhibited inferior scores when it came to measures of learning, memory, general intelligence, processing speed and overall cognitive abilities. In addition, among smokers, length of smoking history was connected to more serious cognitive limitation.

The researchers stress the importance of the availability of smoking cessation programs for military personnel, and primarily for those attempting to abstain from alcohol.