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Alcohol and Smoking: Dependency and Treatment


In the world over, alcohol and tobacco addiction account for a large number of preventable deaths. These two substances are often used together, as research has shown that people who smoke are likely to drink, while those that drink are likely to smoke. The dependence on alcohol and tobacco is also correlated; smokers are 4 times as likely to be dependent on alcohol, while alcoholics are 3 times as likely to be dependent on tobacco. These are some pretty glum numbers, and rightly so as they also show that dependence on the two brings about serious complications when it comes time to kick the habit.

Getting to understand how the two substances work in sync is quite challenging. This is because the use of the two concurrently is so common, and also they work on the same aspects of the brain, that it is difficult to tell the individual and combined effects of the substances. This difficulty is especially seen when coming up with ways to treat the two addictions; with some programs going after the alcohol first and then addressing the smoking, while others preaching quitting the two at the same time. The outcomes for patients addicted to both drugs is not good; in fact it is worse than people who are addicted to only one substance.

The use of alcohol and tobacco are closely linked: those who smoke are more likely to consume alcohol (and vice versa), and also those that drink heavily smoke more. Further studies have also showed that patients diagnosed with an addiction to one drug are most likely to be diagnosed with addiction to the other substance. As mentioned, both substances work on similar parts of the brain, thus leading researchers to conclude that use of one substance will more than likely lead to use of the other.

Among the most affected in our society by these two drugs are the youth. Young people everywhere seem to have thrown caution to the wind, and will openly engage in either drug from early ages, sometimes even before their teen years. The concerns raised about the addiction to alcohol and tobacco should be taken seriously, especially given the impact of the combination of the two on both the individual and the society. When used together, tobacco and alcohol increase the risk of mouth cancer, cardiovascular ailments, and failure of crucial internal organs. The use of the two drugs by pregnant women can cause severe prenatal damage and neurodegenerative defects in their unborn children.

Reasons into combined tobacco and alcohol abuse

One of the reasons touted by clinical studies is genetic factors. Simply put, researchers recognize the importance of genes on increased alcohol and smoking abuse over the past decade. Using scientific approaches, researchers reason that alcoholism and smoking can be inherited, and that this heritability proportion is much higher for tobacco use.

Another factor that has been considered as being a determinant for alcoholism and smoking is a person’s age and gender. One study found that an adolescent’s risk of picking up on these two drugs is primarily dependent on the peer influences around them. In young adults, the probability of picking up on the drugs is as a result of genetic factors.

A much more modern line of reasoning has emerged; the conditioning mechanism aspect. Conditioning mechanism notes that people who drink and smoke are more likely to engage in these drugs if they are in particular scenarios (at a party or club). Further studies have also showed that people who relapse into smoking after quitting will most likely do it where there is alcohol involved. This scenarios thus support the conditioning mechanism theory that sees alcohol and smoking as associated because they are often used concurrently.

Breaking the cycle

At the end of the day, alcohol abuse and smoking tend to become one big, vicious cycle. Regardless of the factors that force one into it, one thing is clear; one needs to make a strong resolve to break the addiction. Many prefer to do this in form of a resolution, but it doesn’t take long before they slip right back into the vices. For those that are trying to quit, here are a few steps of advice.

1. Acknowledge the problem

This is the first step to solving any problem. You need to be able to have a reason as to why you resort to smoking and drinking. Is it to deal with stress? It may be hard for you to admit you have a problem, but you can solve something you don’t acknowledge. Admit it to yourself, however painful it may be.

2. Don’t be in denial about it

If you live in denial about the problem, there is no way you are ever going to handle it. You need to understand at an intellectual level that what you are doing is harmful to you, and if you don’t stop, the results could be fatal. You can lie to others, but you can’t lie to yourself.

3. If you need help, get it

If the addiction is a stage where you can go an hour without smoking a stick, or a day without taking a shot, then you need help. Get family and friends to help you with this, most preferably by signing you up to a rehabilitation clinic/center. This is a last resort measure, when the addiction takes on a life of its own.

4.  Make lifestyle changes

You have to make changes if you are going to quit smoking and drinking. They can be simple changes, like staying clear of cigarette vending machines. You may have to clean out your alcohol cabinet, change the route you take from work/school, where you hang out, and the friends you hang out with. The best way to get rid of the addiction is to not have any access to it.

Overcoming alcohol and smoking addiction is a difficult thing to do, but not impossible. In such times, it helps to have a support system of friends and family who will encourage you every step of the way.