Alcohol And Tobacco: Mixing Nicotine And Alcohol

Last Updated: July 10, 2020

Authored by Isaak Stotts, LP

When it comes to looking at substance abuse, a common association would be about alcohol and smoking effects. These are two legal substances that can each cause many adverse effects, including addictive behavior. When the two are combined, however, then the focus needs to be switched to the ill effects of smoking and alcohol used together. This post looks at the combined effects of tobacco and alcohol consumption and how this duo can be harmful to the average person.

How Smoking Tobacco And Drinking Affect Health

Several substances should never be combined, as interactions can occur. Alcohol and antibiotic drugs, for example, could make pharmaceutical products less effective. In some cases, the side-effects of these combinations can be serious. This comes into play when looking at facts about tobacco and alcohol, as well as when other drugs are mixed with the substance.
Drugs and alcohol are often mixed to cause an increase in high. When looking at a more legal approach, many people are drinking alcohol and smoking tobacco products at the same time.

When looking at alcohol and tobacco effects, it should be noted that each of these has its associated health risks. When combined, the risks associated with these habits become even more severe. The combined effects can impact multiple symptoms of a person’s body. There are effects of smoking and alcohol on the respiratory system, cognitive function, and many other systems that perform critical roles in the body.

Opposite Effects Of The Substances

Alcohol is classified as a depressant. The consumption of this substance causes several functions of both the body and the mind to become slower. There is a reduction in brain neuron activity when a person uses alcohol. These neurons are responsible for the regulation of all bodily functions. The effects of alcohol consumption can become present even with just a small amount of the substance.
In the case where a person becomes addicted to alcohol, alcoholism will develop. In this case, the effects that alcohol has on the body become even more concerning factor.
Tobacco is not a depressant like alcohol. Instead, this substance is known as a stimulant. One particularly important issue that comes to mind here is the chemicals that are added to cigarettes. In addition to tobacco, cigarettes also contain carbon monoxide, butane, arsenic, hydrogen cyanide, ammonia, and tar. These are all chemicals that can have damaging effects on the body.

man drinking vodka and smoking
The effects of tobacco span throughout the entire body. High blood pressure develops, which is when the hard needs to work harder to get blood to pump throughout the body. This causes damage to arteries. At the same time, blood vessels start to become constricted. The nervous system is stimulated too, and the heart rate is increased temporarily after each cigarette.

Increased Risks Of Cancer

When it comes to looking at the combined effects of these substances, both short-term and long-term problems come to mind.
The main issue that needs to be addressed in terms of an alcoholic beverage and tobacco combination is the fact that the two have opposite effects. Alcohol acts as a depressant and tobacco as a stimulant. This is somewhat different than combining opiate drugs and alcohol, for example. The presence of tobacco as a stimulant means the person may not feel the full effects of alcohol. In turn, they may drink significantly more alcohol than what they can truly handle.
Some studies are still being conducted on nicotine and alcohol effects.

Statistics On Smoking And Alcohol Use

Both smoking and alcohol usage is at an alarmingly high rate. A look at facts about smoking and alcohol can help people understand the significant impact that these addictions can have.
In 2016, one study found that at least 15.5% of the US population are current smokers at the time. This was a 0.4% increase in the prevalence of tobacco smoking since the year 2015. There was also a higher trend among men who were between the ages of 25 and 64.

man drinking alcohol
Alcohol abuse is similarly concerning issue in various areas of the world, including the United States. According to one study, at least 5.3% of the US population partakes in activities that can be classified as alcohol abuse each year. The same study found that alcohol dependence seems to affect at least 4.4% of all adults in the United States.
There are also many people who would combine other substances with smoking and drinking alcohol. An example would be those taking depression medication and alcohol together – a combination that could yield harmful effects.

Alcoholics And Non-Alcoholics Smoking Rates

Scientists often conduct research to study the effects of smoking and alcohol consumption as a combination. These two habits are both considered dangerous – and the fact that there seems to be a trend to combine the two makes the entire concern more serious. This makes it critical for people to learn about the effects of smoking and alcohol together.

Smoking Increases Alcohol Consumption

Some studies have found smoking might cause a person to experience an increased risk of alcohol use. Additionally, people who are current smokers might even be more likely to abuse alcohol or participate in binge drinking more often.

One study analyzed the association between alcohol and smoking. The researchers found that hazardous drinking was present in an estimated 39.9% of the participants who were part of the study. This figure account for participants who were non-smokers. When the researchers switched their focus to those participants who were current smokers, the statistics for hazardous drinking in the past 12 months increased to 58%.
This study alone already provided relevant evidence that indicates a definite connection exists between alcohol and smoking.

Binge Drinking And Nicotine Connection

In another study, researchers focused on determining how smoking affected the risk of binge drinking activities. In this study, 47% of non-smokers reported participating in binge drinking regularly.
People who smoked, but did not use tobacco products daily, were among the group with the highest prevalence of binge drinking. Among non-daily smokers, a total of 76% of participants reported binge drinking activities frequently.

The same study showed an opposite connection, too. The participation in heavier drinking activities also seemed to increase the likeliness that a person smokes – statistics revealed that the majority of people who participate in heavy drinking are current or former smokers.

Risks Of Alcoholism Development

Here, it should also be mentioned that studies have determined that those people who are current smokers are at a higher risk of developing alcoholism, compared to people who are not current smokers.

alcoholic woman smoking
To summarize, studies indicate that up to 90% of people who are currently considered alcoholics also smoke tobacco products. Some people would also combine weed and alcohol, along with other substances – all to gain a more significant elevation in mood and the high often linked to the use of these substances. The effects of smoking and alcohol consumption as a combination lead to more serious adverse events in these patients.

Why People Consume Alcohol And Tobacco Together

Several studies provide clear evidence of a connection between alcohol and tobacco use among the general population. While scientists are still figuring out exactly the reason behind this combination, several suggestions have been made. A look at tobacco and alcohol facts together helps these experts better understand what combined effects people might be after.

  • One of the main reasons why people are suspected of mixing the two substances is due to the opposite effects of smoking cigarettes and drinking alcohol in a single session. As previously mentioned, alcohol is a depressant, whereas tobacco has a stimulant effect on the body.
  • Alcohol causes the nervous system to become slower. This is often seen as a disadvantage for many people – including those who participate in binge drinking and heavy alcohol consumption. When combined with tobacco products, the effects of alcohol could be reduced. The person may still experience the “buzz” associated with the use of alcoholic drinks, but there may be a reduction in the adverse effects that they sometimes suffer.
  • The fact that both alcohol and nicotine products may alter the production of dopamine in the brain is another area of interest when it comes to asking why people are mixing these substances. More specifically, both of these substances may lead to an increase in dopamine. Dopamine is often cited as the “feel good” neurotransmitter – leading to an elevated mood and feelings that are generally associated with pleasure.
  • With this in mind, people may be combining smoking and alcoholic beverages to experience a more significant elevation of dopamine. This would, of course, lead to a further enhancement in the elevated mood, along with a more intense boost of that “pleasurable” feeling that dopamine is known to cause.
  • The combined effects mean alcohol will not only cause an increase in the “reward” feelings that come with the use of nicotine, but it may also lead to an enhancement of the calming effects that some people tend to experience when they use nicotine products.

Even though these might feel good at the time, these individuals need to understand the disadvantages of alcohol and smoking.

Treating Alcohol And Nicotine Addiction

There are treatment programs that can help people who are addicted to more than one substance. Similar to those people who are taking sleeping pills with alcohol, the combination of alcoholic drinks and tobacco products can be treated effectively. There are side effects of quitting alcohol and smoking; however, which is why it is important to seek professional help.
The specific treatments that would help a person depend on some factors. Those who are trying to learn how to stop drinking alcohol and smoking together might need to be admitted to an appropriate treatment center. Whether the person has learned about tobacco and alcohol-related deaths, or want a better life for themselves, the first step remains the necessary – admittance that there is a problem with addiction.
The next step is to consider nicotine and alcohol withdrawal, which often requires professional intervention. Treatments can help to minimize the withdrawal effects while also allowing the person to stop smoking and alcohol use effectively.

Page Sources

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  2. Lee HK, Chou SP, Cho MJ, Park JI, Dawson DA, Grant BF. The prevalence and correlates of alcohol use disorders in the United States and Korea--a cross-national comparative study. Alcohol. 2010;44(4):297–306.
  3. McKee SA, Falba T, O'Malley SS, Sindelar J, O'Connor PG. Smoking status as a clinical indicator for alcohol misuse in US adults. Arch Intern Med. 2007 Apr 9;167(7):716-21.
  4. Husky MM, Paliwal P, Mazure CM, McKee SA. Gender differences in association with substance use diagnoses and smoking. J Addict Med. 2007 Sep;1(3):161-4.

Published on: January 21st, 2020

Updated on: July 10th, 2020

About Author

Isaak Stotts, LP

Isaak Stotts is an in-house medical writer in AddictionResource. Isaak learned addiction psychology at Aspen University and got a Master's Degree in Arts in Psychology and Addiction Counseling. After graduation, he became a substance abuse counselor, providing individual, group, and family counseling for those who strive to achieve and maintain sobriety and recovery goals.


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