Craving a Cigarette? Avoid the Booze

Smoking cessation attempts may be more difficult after consuming alcohol

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Robert Carlson, M.D

(RxWiki News) When it’s time to quit smoking, it’s time to eliminate as much temptation as possible. The first week is key to successfully quitting, and avoiding alcohol may really help.

A recent study tracked smoking urges in a group of women during their first week of an attempt to quit smoking. Alcohol consumption was also monitored to see if it had any bearing on the urge to smoke. Researchers found women reported a greater urge to smoke after drinking alcohol.

The authors suggested avoiding alcohol during the first week of an attempt to quit to help manage cravings.

"Avoid alcohol during your first week of quitting."

Michael S. Businelle, PhD, assistant professor in the Division of Health Promotion and Behavioral Sciences at the University of Texas School of Public Health in Dallas, led an investigation into the effects of alcohol on attempts to quit smoking among women.

Between 1999 and 2002, researchers recruited 134 women between the ages of 18 and 70 in Seattle, WA, who were making an attempt to quit smoking.

Each woman had smoked at least 10 cigarettes per day prior to the quit attempt and had also consumed alcohol on at least one occasion during the first week of the attempt.

Participants were given handheld computers, much like smartphones, to track their progress through the attempt to quit. None of the women were using nicotine patches or smoking cessation medications or had any psychiatric disorders.

Urge to smoke was rated by each participant on her handheld device throughout the day. Smoking urges were highest at the start of the day, at the beginning of the quit attempt and after consuming alcohol. Urges to smoke were even higher on days when participants would eventually consume alcohol, but had not begun drinking yet compared to days when no alcohol was consumed.

Researchers suggested that the greater the urge to smoke during a quit attempt, the higher the likelihood of alcohol use, which would then increase the urge to smoke again. The link between the urge to smoke and alcohol use could present a dangerous pitfall during an attempt to quit, especially during the first week.

The authors were unable to tell whether the women drank to cope with urges to smoke or alcohol itself increased the urge to smoke. Either way, alcohol appeared to play a role in the urge to smoke and presented a risk factor for a relapse back into smoking.

This study was published in February in Experimental Clinical Psychopharmacology.

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Review Date: 
February 10, 2013
Last Updated:
February 12, 2013