Study Explains Link Between Drinking And Smoking

By May Wilkerson 10/29/15

Drinking and smoking has always gone hand in hand. Now science proves it.

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Drinking and smoking have been known to go, quite literally, hand in hand.

Studies show that more than 85% of Americans who are alcoholics also smoke cigarettes. But other than the fact that a cigarette complements an alcohol buzz quite well, there may be a scientific explanation for the partnership: booze makes you sleepy, but nicotine helps you stay awake.

In a new study from the University of Missouri School of Medicine, researchers fitted rats with electrodes to measure their sleep patterns and then gave them alcohol and nicotine. They found that nicotine actually cancels out the sleep-inducing effects of booze, helping the critters stay alert.

"One of the adverse effects of drinking alcohol is sleepiness," said the study’s lead author Mahesh Thakkar, Ph.D., associate professor at the MU School of Medicine. "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.”

Nicotine suppresses the sleep-inducing effects of alcohol by stimulating an area of the brain known as the basal forebrain, researchers explained. They hope the findings can be useful in helping people break bad habits. “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.

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May Wilkerson is a writer, comic and Managing Editor @someecards. Co-host of the podcast Crazy; In Bed w/alyssalimp. She is also the top Google result for "insufferable lunatic." Follow this insufferable lunatic on Twitter.