Does smoking impact alcohol abuse treatment?

People who smoke are less likely to continue with alcohol treatment programs than non-smokers, according to findings by the University at Buffalo Research Institute on Addictions (RIA). The findings of the RIA study, published in journal Substance Use and Misuse, showed that non-smokers gained better treatment outcomes than smokers who were also addicted to alcohol.

The study analyzed more than 21,000 adult treatment seekers from more than 200 community outpatient alcohol abuse treatment centers across the New York state. The study pointed out that an individual who is dependent on tobacco is four times more predisposed to alcohol addiction and that smoking can also delay the progression of treatment for alcohol abuse. Moreover, an alcohol dependent person is three times more likely to smoke. Thus, addiction to both alcohol and tobacco places one in a double bind.

According to the study’s lead author Kimberly Walitzer, Ph.D., deputy director and senior research scientist at RIA, smoking is strongly linked with alcohol treatment problems. “Tobacco smokers had shorter treatment durations and were less likely to have achieved their alcohol-related goals at discharge relative to their nonsmoking counterparts,” Walitzer said in a university news release.

This should be a major concern for treatment providers as the majority of people with alcohol disorders are, in fact, smokers, she added.

Alarmingly, the study findings also showed that women are more severely affected by these associations. It indicated that 67 percent of women seeking treatment for alcohol abuse were also smokers, compared to 61 percent of men. Walitzer’s data also showed that women had to cope with even more problematic conditions and poorer alcohol rehabilitation outcomes than men who smoked.

Studies have shown that alcoholics are at a higher risk of dying due to tobacco-related illnesses. People with these co-occurring addictions increase their chances of health complications, such as multiple cancers, lung and heart diseases. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, tobacco and alcohol are the leading causes of preventable death in the United States.

Over the last 50 years, the risk of dying from smoking has increased in men and women in the United States, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states. Alcohol and tobacco use may lead to major health risks when used alone or together.

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