Both alcohol and smoking affect the mesolimbic dopamine system, an important part of the brain controlling the release of dopamine, a hormone responsible for activating reward, emotion, memory and cognition sense in our body. Generally speaking, addictions are short term pleasure with long-term costs, many of which are often overlooked until it is too late.
Alcohol and smoking in particular are the biggest preventable killers worldwide, more people die in the UK from cigarette related illness than the majority of other illnesses combined. To make things worse, many drinkers also smoke, leading to greater risk of cigarette related illness. Drinking is a bad habit on its own, but when combined with smoking, it heightens the risk exponentially.
Dependency on substances for satisfaction boils down to the fact that these synthetic replacements enter your bloodstream and activates natural processes. These processes naturally produce hormones which in turn activate the pleasure senses giving your positive reinforcement when it is actually extremely harmful. Over use of addictive substances will lead to long-term health risks and even nullifies the pleasure senses, leading you to have to consume more to achieve the same level of satisfaction.
Essentially it is an endless cycle that repeats and causes significant harm to your body. When this substance is removed from your routine, you start feeling withdrawal symptoms (also known as “cold turkey”), this is caused by your dependency on the substance screaming out for you to cave in.
This exact same mechanic apply to both alcohol & smoking addictions, both giving you a different pleasure but at it’s core works the same way. Both alcohol & smoking go hand in hand, alcohol lowers inhibition therefore likely to kickstart old habits or affects cigarette cravings. In fact, more alcoholics die from cigarette related illness than alcohol related illnesses. It also further complicates the rehabilitation process in that treating one can lead to overcompensation of the other.
The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA’s) 2001-2002 survey on alcohol and its related illnesses resulted that 46 million adults in the US consume both cigarettes and alcohol in the past year. At least 6.2 million of these individuals reported that they were dependent on nicotine. It also revealed that alcohol used varied by gender, age and ethnicity with men having significantly higher co-use rate than women. The younger population also showed a much higher tendency of AUDs, nicotine dependency and the co-use of both alcohol and cigarettes.
Co-use of alcohol and cigarette leads to a multitude of health related illnesses which includes multiple forms of cancer, cardiovascular diseases and other long-term conditions like chronic coughing. Bringing all of these illnesses together will result in the biggest group of preventable deaths in the world. People who drink and smoke are also at a significantly higher risk of mouth cancer, particular the throat, and are responsible for about 80% of mouth and throat cancer in men and a further 65% in women. The risk of both drinking and smoking not only is greater, but it is multiplied by each other giving an exponentially higher health risk.