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Keywords:

  • Ataxia;
  • Balance;
  • Postural Stability;
  • Alcohol Dependence;
  • Cigarette Smoking;
  • Abstinence

Background

Static postural instability is common in alcohol-dependent individuals (ALC). Chronic alcohol consumption has deleterious effects on the neural and perceptual systems subserving postural stability. However, little is known about the effects of chronic cigarette smoking on postural stability and its changes during abstinence from alcohol.

Methods

A modified Fregly ataxia battery was administered to a total of 115 smoking (sALC) and nonsmoking ALC (nsALC) and to 71 smoking (sCON) and nonsmoking light/nondrinking controls (nsCON). Subgroups of abstinent ALC were assessed at 3 time points (TPs; approximately 1, 5, 34 weeks of abstinence from alcohol); a subset of nsCON was retested at 40 weeks. We tested whether cigarette smoking affects postural stability in CON and in ALC during extended abstinence from alcohol, and we used linear mixed effects modeling to measure change across TPs within ALC.

Results

Chronic smoking was associated with reduced performance on the Sharpened Romberg eyes-closed task in abstinent ALC at all 3 TPs and in CON. The test performance of nsALC increased significantly between 1 and 32 weeks of abstinence, whereas the corresponding increases for sALC between 1 and 35 weeks were nonsignificant. With long-term abstinence from alcohol, nsALC recovered into the range of nsCON and sALC recovered into the range of sCON. Static postural stability decreased with age and correlated with smoking variables but not with drinking measures.

Conclusions

Chronic smoking was associated with reduced static postural stability with eyes closed and with lower increases of postural stability during abstinence from alcohol. Smoking cessation in alcohol dependence treatment may facilitate recovery from static postural instability during abstinence.