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Nicotine Plus Alcohol May Be Tough to Beat
Date:11/6/2007

The two habits work together to maintain addiction, study suggests

TUESDAY, Nov. 6 (HealthDay News) -- As many bar patrons know all too well, drinking and smoking tend to go together. Now, research in mice suggests why that might be so.

It's well known that, "The success rate for stopping drinking is much lower if someone continues smoking," noted lead researcher Thomas J. Gould, a neuroscientist and associate professor of psychology at Temple University in Philadelphia. The concurrent use of "ethanol [alcohol] and nicotine can lead to very serious problems," he added.

His team found that mice suffer deficits in their ability to learn and remember as they are withdrawing from nicotine. Furthermore, alcohol use appears to have negative effects on nicotine withdrawal. Interactions between the two addictions may generate a "negative spiral" of tolerance and dependence on both substances, Gould said.

That could explain why a smoker who walks into his favorite smoke-filled bar may feel like drinking. In the same situation, a social drinker who normally doesn't smoke may start craving a cigarette if they're having a drink, Gould said.

He was slated to present the findings Tuesday at the annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience, in San Diego.

The mouse model's demonstration of the effects of withdrawal from chronic smoking also suggest an explanation of why light smokers may initially feel stimulated by nicotine but lose that stimulation as the habit continues, Gould said. When smoking becomes chronic, the initial stimulation is blocked and, instead, cognitive deficits begin to show up.

"So, it takes any of the positive effects and shifts the dose-response to the negative end quicker," Gould explained.

Similarly, someone addicted to alcohol has "pretty strong memories of the first time they drank," Gould said. But because of the cognitive deficits created by alcohol abuse an
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