Smoking and Drinking – Their Combined Effects on The Body

Drinking may sometimes be a trigger smoking, and vice versa. Avoiding situations which may lead to triggers or partaking in excess should be exercised, while smoking should always be avoided.

Close-up of a businessman drinking wine and smoking cigarettes

Smoking and drinking. Aside from eating fast food for every meal, there are few things you can do that would be worse for your health. You already know that smoking leads to lung cancer, heart disease, and stroke. You probably also know that excessive use of alcohol leads to liver damage, impaired judgement, and innumerable bad decisions. Combine the two, and you have a recipe for disaster when it comes to your health.

Smoking and Drinking

Both tobacco and alcohol are highly addictive. Both affect chemicals in the brain, and both cause a “feel good” response. Most people do not begin either activity with the intention of becoming addicted, but this often occurs anyway. Those who are under stress or who have endured some sort of trauma may be more likely to drink and smoke. This is a form of self-medication, and is not a healthy way to deal with issues.

Smoking and drinking are each fraught with health consequences. Tobacco products cause cardiovascular disease, cancer of the lungs and most other bodily systems, stroke, emphysema/COPD, and numerous other complications. Drinking not only also offers health complications of its own, such as cirrhosis of the liver, but it also affects the brain. While under the influence of alcohol, inhibitions are lowered and it’s easy to make decisions that are less than wise. Those who drink while under the influence also put themselves and others at risk.

Smoking and Drinking Combined

While both activities are plenty dangerous all on their own, many people smoke and drink alcohol in tandem. There are various reasons for that. For one, those who are used to lighting up whenever they have a drink may come to associate alcohol with tobacco. This can lead to cravings for a cigarette any time alcohol is consumed and vice versa – smoking may come to trigger cravings for alcohol.

Stress is also a factor, as both tobacco products and alcohol are known for their (temporary) stress reducing qualities.

Double the unhealthy actions, means double the risk. However, studies have shown that those who drink are more likely to crave tobacco products. Even those who are only social smokers, meaning they only light up in certain social situations, are more likely to smoke while drinking. That’s because both alcohol and tobacco affect the brain in similar ways. Having one can easily lead to cravings or thoughts of the other. Even when people are going through the alcohol rehab (inpatient, in the vast majority of cases), they are encouraged to quit smoking too, since smoking serves as a trigger to drinking behaviors.

This isn’t just a bad idea from a long-term health perspective. The Journal on Studies of Alcohol and Drugs found that smokers were more likely to suffer more severe hangovers the next morning. While heavier drinkers obviously suffered the worst hangovers, even among those who drank similar amounts, smokers were more likely to have severe morning after pain. The reasons for this are not yet understood.

Prevention of Complications

Casual smokers and drinkers can offset negative outcomes by avoiding tobacco products and by drinking in moderation. There is no safe level of tobacco use.

Those who are addicted to one or both substances should seek professional guidance. Smoking cessation aids are available for those looking to quit. There are also programs and counseling available for alcoholics.

Published: May 28, 2015 Updated: February 14, 2019



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