Alcohol problems hinder smoking cessation

November 08, 1999

People with current or past alcohol problems have more trouble quitting smoking and are more dependent on nicotine than people who have never had alcohol problems, new research shows.

"Many recovering alcoholics rely on nicotine to help them avoid relapse to alcohol," said J. Taylor Hays, MD, the lead investigator of the study. "It is important to recognize that this group is more likely to die from smoking-related diseases than from alcohol-related conditions. Therefore, it seems prudent to address both alcohol and nicotine dependence."

Scientists from the Mayo Clinic/Mayo Foundation and the University of Wisconsin compared the quit rates of 382 smoking cessation program participants. All of the subjects were at least 20 years old and had smoked 15 or more cigarettes daily for at least one year. The results of the study appear in the current issue of Annals of Behavioral Medicine.

The participants with current or past alcohol problems were much less likely to have quit smoking after intervals of four and eight weeks of participating in the smoking cessation program. The program included nicotine patch therapy and one of three types of counseling: self-help materials, physician intervention and individual counseling, or group therapy.

Six months after the program began, the differences were less marked. However, people in both of the alcohol-problem groups remained less likely to abstain from smoking, and they smoked more cigarettes per day than did those without alcohol problems.

Notably, the smokers with past alcohol problems had more difficulty quitting and smoked more cigarettes than did those with active or no alcohol problems.

The research team also speculates that major depression, which is common in both alcoholics and smokers, may deter people with alcohol problems from quitting smoking.
Annals of Behavioral Medicine is the official peer-reviewed publication of The Society of Behavioral Medicine. For information about the journal, contact Arthur Stone, PhD, 516-632-8833.

Posted by the Center for the Advancement of Health < >. For information about the Center, call Petrina Chong, < > (202) 387-2829.

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