July 24, 2006 -- People may drink more alcohol if they're smoking cigarettes between sips, a new study shows.
Smoking and drinking often go together, though not all smokers drink and not all drinkers smoke.
Researchers from Texas A&M University studied interactions between nicotine, which is found in cigarettes, and alcohol. They studied adult female rats, but the findings may apply to people.
"Cigarette smoking appears to promote the consumption of alcohol," says researcher Wei-Jung Chen, PhD, in a journal news release.
Chen and two other Texas A&M researchers -- Scott Parnell, PhD, and James West, PhD -- tested alcohol and various nicotine doses on the rats.
"This may encourage drinkers to drink more to achieve the pleasurable or expected effect," says Chen.
Nicotine may somehow affect the stomach's handling of alcohol, the researchers note.
They figured that out by repeating their experiment with one change. They injected alcohol into the rats' abdominal cavity (the space surrounding the abdominal organs) instead of piping it into the rats' stomach. Nicotine had no effect on blood alcohol levels under those conditions, the study shows.
Chen plans to study interactions between alcohol and other drugs. Meanwhile, he says in the news release that "the current findings should be a warning to the general public regarding the danger of abusing multiple drugs, since the pharmacokinetic interactions among these substances are often unpredictable and injurious."