The link  between alcohol consumption and cigarette smoking is well established in the recovery community. While it remains unclear what the exact cause for this link may be, it is evident that the more one smokes, the more likely one is to drink. And, vice versa, the more one drinks, the more likely one is to smoke. There seems to be a wide misunderstanding around the necessity of smoking in quitting alcohol. Many people in alcohol recovery tend to believe that smoking helps them remain sober when in fact smoking is making the craving for alcohol more intense.  


The general understanding of addiction recovery is that it is largely dependent on the restoration of the brain to normal functioning. During the time when the individual is using, the brain is inundated with signals far beyond what it needs in the limbic system. This system, which serves as the pleasure center or reward center of the brain, is reprogrammed to associate pleasure with the presence of the substance as a result of prolonged exposure to it. When it comes to alcohol dependency, a very similar phenomenon occurs which is related to the presence of a certain number of receptor sites in the brain known as “GABAA” receptors. Staving off the craving to drink is contingent on the recovery of these receptor sites. However, smoking interferes with this process and inhibits recovery of normal brain function thus reducing the chances of quitting alcohol.


It is now fairly conclusive that if one wants to truly quit drinking alcohol, then a solid plan for quitting smoking is also necessary. It is almost fair to say that if one simply focuses on quitting smoking, the tendency to drink will inevitably fade away. There are some pretty effective methods in the market today for quitting smoking. These include the nicotine patch, nicotine gum, nicotine lozenges, and a few non-nicotine based medications as well. The point to be emphasized here is that in considering a recovery strategy for those who are addicted to both cigarettes and alcohol, it may be wise to first kick the smoking habit in order to reduce the cravings for alcohol as this is what more and more circumstantial evidence is showing us to be most effective. Regardless of whether or not there truly exists a direct link between these two things at the chemical level, there is still plenty of indirect evidence to suggest that this is a strategy worth further application and investigation.


If you’re struggling with addiction and need help getting clean, call us at Treatment Now or a free consultation to learn about your options.

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