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Substance Abuse and Addiction Health Center

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Quitting Smoking May Help Kick Alcoholism

Quitting Smoking While Recovering From Alcoholism May Help Brain, Study Shows
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

June 25, 2007 -- For people in alcoholism recovery, not smoking may be a boon to the brain.

A new study of recovering alcoholics shows bigger strides in mental test scores in nonsmokers than smokers.

The study, published in July's edition of the journal Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research, included 25 recovering alcoholics, 12 of whom were current smokers.

Participants, who lived in San Francisco, were about 45-57 years old, on average. Most were male veterans.

The researchers included Timothy Durazzo, PhD, of the San Francisco Veterans Administration Medical Center and the University of San Francisco's radiology department.

Durazzo's team tested participants' mental skills, including learning, memory, and efficient thinking. Participants took the tests twice: once after a month in recovery and again six to nine months later.

During that time, the smokers reported smoking about 22 cigarettes per day, with no change in their smoking habits during the study.

Smoking and Alcoholism

The study shows that while in alcoholism recovery, smokers and nonsmokers both improved their mental skills test scores.

However, nonsmokers showed a bigger improvement in most of the mental skills tests, even in light of other factors, including age and education level.

For comparison, the researchers also gave the same tests to nonsmokers who reported light drinking (about 17 drinks per month, on average) without alcoholism.

None of the alcoholics quit smoking during alcoholism recovery. But doing so might be a good idea, according to the researchers.

They note that the study may support encouraging smokers in treatment for alcohol or other drug problems to consider enrolling in a smoking cessation program at the same time.

  • Are you struggling with alcohol addiction? Helping a loved one recover? Talk with others on our Addiction and Substance Abuse Support Group board.

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