Drinking Patterns and Health Status in Smoking and Nonsmoking Alcoholics


  • This study was supported in part by a grant from the National Institute on Alcoholism and Alcohol Abuse (R01-6867).

Reprint requests: James L. York, Ph.D., Research Institute on Addictions, 1021 Main Street, Buffalo, NY 14203.


Alcoholics who smoked also reported that they drank more frequently and consumed more alcohol on drinking occasions than alcoholics who did not smoke, a practice that resulted in a substantially greater lifetime alcohol consumption in the smokers. Smoking alcoholics also consumed more cigarettes and reported more smoking-related physical symptoms than social drinkers who smoked. The heart rates (HRs) of smoking and nonsmoking alcoholics were similar and both exceeded the HRs for the smoking social drinkers by ∼13 beats/min (bpm) in males and by ∼7 bpm in females. Surprisingly, correlations between HR and lifetime alcohol consumption were higher and slopes were steeper in controls than in alcoholics. HRs in a subset of the male alcoholics fell only ∼3 bpm after 24 weeks of abstinence, but changed no further over an additional 24-week period. Taken together, the findings suggest that HRs may have been higher in this group of alcoholics before the onset of alcohol abuse and that alcohol intake contributed only slightly to the high HR.