Drinking and Smoking: How to Quit this Dangerous Combination

Drinking and smoking are very commonly abused together and can cause serious health risk. Learn how we can help you from nicotine and alcohol addiction. Read more.

October 1, 2023

Drinkers smoke, and smokers drink. If you are in this situation, know that you are not the first or the last. It happens to the majority of people, and they find it challenging to have one without the other.

One of the most extensive comorbidity studies ever undertaken by the National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions (NESARC) includes extensive questions about alcohol and tobacco use and related diseases. According to NESARC statistics, an estimated 46 million people used alcohol and tobacco products together in the last year. 6.2 million of them are adults and are reported to have an alcohol use disorder (AUD) and a nicotine dependency.

In the United States, around 1.5 million people start smoking cigarettes daily every year, with teens and young adults making up the vast majority of those smokers. It imposes a devastating effect on families, businesses, and the government. Cigarette smoking kills more than 480,000 individuals each year.

Alcohol, on the other hand, is known to be the third-leading preventable cause of mortality in the nation. Every year, it claims the lives of about 95,000 people, of whom approximately 68,000 are males and 27,000 are women. Tobacco is the first, followed by a bad diet and inactivity.

Undoubtedly, cigarettes and alcohol are among the most fatal substances in the US, but why do so many people continue to engage in them? And why do these two things frequently go hand in hand when they have the potential to be fatal?

After reading this, hopefully, you’ll have more of an understanding of why smoking elicits drinking alcohol. Additionally, you will learn about the potential health effects and how Legends Recovery Center in Green Springs and Cleveland, Ohio can help you or a loved one quit drinking and smoking.

Why Does Your Body Want to Smoke When You Drink Alcohol?

drinking and smoking

There are a few reasons your body may feel the urge to smoke when you are drinking alcohol. The combination of smoking and drinking alcohol can lead to the development of a conditioned response where the act of smoking becomes associated with the pleasurable effects of drinking alcohol. This can lead to cravings for smoking when drinking alcohol.

When alcohol is consumed, it can cause the release of dopamine, a neurotransmitter associated with pleasure and reward. Nicotine, which is present in cigarettes, can also act as a stimulant, enhancing the effects of alcohol and further contributing to cravings. As a result, the brain begins to link drinking alcohol and smoking to the same enjoyable experience. It increases the desire to smoke when drinking alcohol, which creates a cycle of addiction.

Another reason your body craves smoking when drinking is because it lessens the negative effects of alcohol, like nausea and dizziness. In addition, both substances are also known to reduce nervousness and anxiety. Smoking can make people feel more at ease and friendly, which may lead them to smoke while drinking.

It’s also possible that smoking and drinking go hand in hand due to learned behavior or social cues. When someone habitually smokes and drinks in social situations, the two behaviors may get linked in the brain, and the person may develop a craving for smoking.

Genetic factors are another reason why some people crave smoking when drinking alcohol. According to studies, some genetic variants can increase a person’s susceptibility to addiction or affect how much they are likely to drink or smoke. However, it is important to note that genetics is just one of many factors that can influence a person’s decision to smoke or drink; environmental and societal factors also play a significant role.

What Happens to the Body and Brain When You Drink and Smoke at the Same Time?

Smoking and drinking at the same time can have several negative health effects, both physically and mentally. The combination of the two can increase the risk of certain cancers, such as lung cancer, throat cancer, and mouth cancer. It can also lead to an increased risk of heart disease, stroke, and liver disease. Smoking and drinking can worsen each other’s harmful effects, leading to a greater risk of addiction and mental health problems too.

Cancers of the Mouth and Throat

Smokers and heavy drinkers are much more likely to get mouth and throat cancer. It damages the cells in the mouth and throat, leading to mutations and cancerous growth. Cancer of the mouth typically appears in any part of the mouth, including the lips, tongue, gums, and cheeks. While throat cancer, also known as pharyngeal cancer, develops in the pharynx, which is the part of the throat behind the nose and mouth, 80% of males are more likely than 65% of women to get mouth and throat cancer.

Liver Cancer

The use of tobacco products and alcohol is a significant risk factor for liver cancer. Alcohol and tobacco smoke both include chemicals that can damage liver cells and raise the likelihood of cancer-causing mutations. Long-term heavy drinking can also result in the development of cirrhosis. It is a condition in which the liver is damaged and unable to function normally, which raises the risk of liver cancer.

Cardiovascular Disease

Smoking and drinking are both major risk factors for cardiovascular disease. Smoking damages the lining of the blood vessels, making them more susceptible to plaque buildup. This can lead to blockages and increase the risk of heart attack and stroke. The nicotine in cigarettes also causes the blood vessels to constrict, increasing blood pressure and making the heart work harder.

Drinking excessive amounts of alcohol can also worsen heart disease, increase blood pressure, and increase the chance of heart failure. Alcohol intake also increases the likelihood of developing diabetes and weight gain, both of which are significant risk factors for cardiovascular disease.

Mental Health Problems

Smoking and drinking can harm mental health as well. When consumed in excess, it can lead to addiction and tolerance. People who are heavy smokers and drinkers are at a higher risk of developing depression, anxiety, and other mental health disorders. The effects of both habits may differ depending on the genetic makeup, environment, and other circumstances of an individual.

It’s important to understand that various factors could influence how smoking and drinking might impact someone’s mental health. From there, you can set up a plan for how you can quit smoking and drinking.

5 Ways to Quit Drinking and Smoking

steps to quit drinking and smoking

There are several ways to quit smoking and drinking, including:

1. Quit Drinking and Smoking

“Cold turkey” means abruptly stopping the use of the substance without the use of any aids and relying purely on willpower alone. This method can be effective for some, but can also be challenging and may lead to withdrawal symptoms for others. When quitting smoking and drinking, it is ideal to have a goal in place. Write down your reasons for quitting, find alternatives, and prepare for difficult moments. Make sure to set a timeline and stick to your plans.

2. Spring Cleaning

A smart strategy to resist cigarettes and stop smoking is to clean your home, car, and clothes of the odor of smoking and stay away from places where you would typically drink or smoke. Exercise is encouraged since it helps reduce cravings and elevate the mood.

3. Get Support From Others

You may also consider joining a support group of people who are trying to quit smoking or drinking. These groups provide a forum for individuals to share their experiences, offer support, and provide tips and advice for managing withdrawal symptoms and staying on track with their quit attempt. Two popular support groups for quitting smoking and drinking are Nicotine Anonymous (NA) and Alcoholics Anonymous (AA). Both are free and open to the public.

4. Attend Therapy

Behavioral therapy, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and motivational interviewing, is another effective method for quitting smoking and drinking. Individuals can better understand the underlying causes of their addiction and create coping mechanisms for cravings and triggers with the aid of these therapies. Additionally, these therapies can enhance overall well-being and help in forming new, healthy habits.

5. Seek Medical Assistance

Medication can also be a good and effective approach to treating nicotine and alcohol addictions. For nicotine addiction, medication, including nicotine replacement therapy (NRT), bupropion, and varenicline, can help lessen cravings and withdrawal symptoms. Nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) is one option that can provide a small amount of nicotine to help ease cravings.

Another option is varenicline (Chantix), which is a medication that blocks the effects of nicotine on the brain, reducing cravings. While drugs such as naltrexone, acamprosate, and disulfiram can help lessen cravings and stop relapse in the treatment of alcohol addiction.

Legends Recovery Center Can Help You!

Quitting smoking and drinking can be difficult, and success may not come quickly. Self-motivation and encouragement play a vital role in achieving your goal of recovery. It is highly advisable to talk with healthcare professionals to help you identify triggers and address underlying psychological or emotional issues related to substance use. These medically trained individuals can assist you in finding the best treatment plan that fits your specific needs and circumstances.

Legends Recovery Center offers a variety of treatment options, including counseling, therapy, and medication-assisted treatment, to help individuals overcome their addictions to smoking and drinking. If you are wholeheartedly ready to quit smoking and drinking, speak to our expert team now and we will be glad to help.

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