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Keywords:

  • Alcohol Dependence;
  • Cigarette Smoking;
  • Cognition;
  • Treatment;
  • Former Smoking

Background

Alcohol use disorders are related to neurocognitive abnormalities during early abstinence in those seeking treatment for alcohol dependence (ALC). Considerable evidence indicates that chronic cigarette smoking is associated with multiple neurocognitive deficiencies. However, very little is known about the effects of chronic smoking on neurocognitive recovery during early abstinence from alcohol. We evaluated whether cigarette smoking interferes with cognitive improvement during early abstinence from alcohol, a period thought important for maintaining long-term sobriety.

Methods

Neurocognitive functions previously shown to be adversely affected by both alcohol use disorders and chronic cigarette smoking were evaluated. We assessed 35 smoking ALC (sALC) and 34 nonsmoking ALC (nsALC) at approximately 1 and 5 weeks of monitored abstinence.

Results

Although neither group was clinically impaired, both cross-sectional and longitudinal deficiencies were observed in sALC versus nsALC in processing speed, working memory, and auditory-verbal learning and memory. Lifetime alcohol consumption, medical, and psychiatric comorbidities did not predict neurocognitive performance or improvement across assessments. Within sALC, greater drinking and smoking severities were synergistically (more than additively) related to less improvement on visuospatial learning and memory. Former smoking status in the nsALC-mediated group differences in auditory-verbal delayed recall.

Conclusions

Chronic cigarette smoking appears to negatively impact neurocognition during early abstinence from alcohol. Although the cognitive deficiencies observed in this cohort were not in a clinical range of impairment, they should be considered to enhance treatment efficacy. Our findings lend support to integrating smoking cessation as well as the individual assessment of cognition into early ALC treatment. Additionally, there is a need to elucidate the effects of current and former smoking status in future reports of neurocognition.