Why You Smoke When You're Drunk

November 8th 2015

Diana Crandall

Why do you smoke when you’re drunk?

One answer is that nicotine cancels out the sleep-inducing effects of alcohol, according to a recent study published in the Journal of Neurochemistry.

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Researchers at the University of Missouri-Columbia found that there is a scientific reason why alcohol and nicotine usage are closely linked. This new information could also help find solutions to curb alcohol and nicotine addiction.

The new findings explain why so many people who drink alcohol use nicotine—something people didn't know before, Mahesh Thakkar, lead author of the study, told Science Daily. Thakkar explained:

"One of the adverse effects of drinking alcohol is sleepiness. However, when used in conjunction with alcohol, nicotine acts as a stimulant to ward off sleep. If an individual smokes, then he or she is much more likely to consume more alcohol, and vice-versa. They feed off one another.”

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Keeping you awake is only part of the relationship between alcohol and tobacco. Drinking and smoking are intimately connected.

Related: Why Traditional Anti-Smoking Messages Fail

The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism finds that smokers are four times more likely than the general population to be dependent on alcohol and that more alcoholics actually die of tobacco-related illness than of alcohol-related ones.

Thakkar hopes that the research helps people who abuse both substances, Science Daily reported.

"By identifying the reactions that take place when people smoke and drink, we may be able to use this knowledge to help curb alcohol and nicotine addiction," Thakkar said.