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Study Shows Smoking Makes Recovery from Heavy Drinking Harder

Posted in Smoking

It is well-known that heavy drinking over time damages the body and those with alcohol-use disorders (AUDs) have an increased chance of damage to the brain, especially the frontal and parietal cortices. A recent Science Daily piece highlighted that many individuals who have AUDs are also heavy smokers.

When a person is able to abstain from alcohol, some of this damage can be reversed. For those who are also chronic smokers, the news is not as positive. According to a recent study, MRIs of brain blood flow show that smoking makes it harder for brain blood flow to recover from long-term heavy drinking.

"The brain’s frontal lobes are involved in higher-order cognitive function, such as learning, short-term memory, reasoning, planning, problem solving, and emotional control," explained Anderson Mon in the Science Daily report. Mon is a senior research fellow in the department of radiology at the University of California, San Francisco and corresponding author for the study.

"The parietal lobes are involved in aspects of attentional regulation and visuospatial processing. Chronic and excessive drinking is associated with neurobiological abnormalities in these regions, which contribute to the cognitive dysfunction frequently observed in those with AUDs after detoxification."

Results from this study indicated that those non-smoking alcohol-dependent patients who abstained from alcohol showed improvement. Those alcohol-dependent patients who were chronic smokers demonstrated significantly less perfusion recovery, particularly in the frontal lobes.

"These results suggest that patients who want to stop drinking should be offered an option to stop smoking," said Graeme Mason, associate professor of diagnostic radiology and psychiatry at Yale University. "However, any combined cessation has to be designed carefully."

Mason highlighted that there was a difference in success rates among those patients who chose to stop smoking and those who were forced. Multiple studies have shown that patients who are required to stop smoking at the same time as they stopped drinking did not stay sober as long as those who were not forced.