Smoking and drinking seem to go together naturally, and it turns out that there’s a scientific reason why it’s hard to quit one while still indulging in the other. Despite this fact, Alcoholics Anonymous meetings are notorious for their smoke-filled rooms.

Researcher Thomas J. Gould says, “Whenever someone uses these two drugs together, there must be a reason why. The goal of our research is to understand the interactive effects of these two drugs and, by understanding how they are altering behavior and producing neural changes, we will hopefully be in a better position to develop treatments for drug addiction.”

He found out that each of these drugs cancels out the bad effects of the other one. “Our study showed that initially nicotine in a dose-dependent manner reverses alcohol-induced deficits in learning, but tolerance develops for this effect of nicotine with continued administration,” Gould says. “We also found that a low dose of alcohol reverses nicotine withdrawal-associated deficits in learning.

“Think of a situation in which somebody is drinking and having cognitive difficulties. Smoking may take the edge off of it at first, so they begin smoking and they smoke more and more until tolerance develops and they lose that edge. Now they are drinking and smoking and they are addicted to both, but if they try to quit smoking, they go into nicotine withdrawal, which results in a learning deficit. Maybe a drink will actually help them out initially, but then they consume more and they develop even worse learning deficits, so now they begin smoking again and they end up relapsing.”

Beware of those smoke-filled rooms! A new study shows that tobacco smoke-filled air is bad for your heart, and drinking alcohol at the same time only makes it worse. Researchers wanted to test the theory that moderate alcohol consumption provides some heart-protection benefits, but they decided to take the idea further and look at the effects of smoking and breathing second-hand smoke along with drinking.

They exposed mice to smoky air in a laboratory enclosure and fed them a liquid diet containing ethanol, the intoxicating ingredient in alcohol. These mice had almost 5 times as many artery lesions as mice who breathed filtered air and ate a normal solid diet. Artery lesions are a common problem in heavy smokers and a key sign of advancing cardiovascular disease.

Researcher Scott Ballinger says, “Our study shows that exposure to cigarette smoke when combined with alcohol consumption caused the greatest degree of cardiovascular disease development compared to either action or exposure alone.”

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