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Smoking Hampers Alcoholics' Neurocognitive Recovery During Abstinence

A new study has found that smoking may hamper alcoholics neurocognitive recovery during their first six to nine months period of alcohol abstinence .

About 50 to 90 percent of individuals in North America who take alcoholism treatment are chronic smokers. The new findings show that smoking may interfere with the neurocognitive recovery of these people during their first six to nine months of abstinence from alcohol.

The results are published in the July issue of Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research.

There are several possible explanations for the concurrent use of alcohol and tobacco products, said Timothy C. Durazzo, assistant adjunct professor in the department of radiology at the University of California San Francisco, and corresponding author for the study.

Nicotine and alcohol may enhance each others rewarding properties; nicotine may decrease some of alcohols negative effects on cognition and motor incoordination; paired use of nicotine and alcohol may produce a strong association between the two substances such that the use of one leads to cravings for the other; and there may exist a genetic vulnerability for concurrent active cigarette smoking and alcohol dependence, Durazzo added.

Durazzo added that earlier research had shown that chronically smoking alcoholics display poorer performance in several areas of cognitive functioning than non-smokers when they are still actively drinking or after a short period of sobriety.

However, it was unknown if non-smoking alcoholics and alcoholics who continued to smoke during abstinence would show comparable levels of recovery after a sustained period of sobriety, he said.

Study authors recruited three groups: 13 non-smoking recovering alcoholics (12 males, 1 female), 12 actively smoking recovering alcoholics (11 males, 1 female), and 22 non-smoking light-drinking controls (20 males, 2 females). The researcher
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