Background: Smokers with a history of alcohol dependence may have more difficulty quitting, might relapse to alcohol use, and might especially benefit from nicotine replacement therapy for smoking cessation.

Methods: One hundred fifteen smokers with a history of alcohol dependence (median of 5 years previously) were randomly assigned to either a 21-mg nicotine patch or placebo in a trial designed to be as similar as possible to a prior study that examined smokers with no history of alcoholism. Both studies were of heavy smokers with similar levels of nicotine dependence; thus, any differences in trials would be due to a history of alcohol problems per se.

Results: In the current trial, adjusted prolonged smoking abstinence in those with a history of alcohol dependence was higher in the active than the placebo group at end-of-treatment (28% vs. 11%; odds ratio, 3.2;p= 0.04) and at 6-month follow-up (24% vs. 6%; odds ratio, 4.9;p= 0.02). Among subjects not lost to follow-up, none reported drinking problems or increases in craving for alcohol. Smoking abstinence was not lower and the odds ratio for nicotine patch therapy was not greater in smokers with a history of alcohol dependence than in smokers with no such history.

Conclusions: Heavy smokers with a history of alcoholism benefit from nicotine patch treatment. A history of alcohol problems after a period of stable sobriety does not appear to influence smoking outcomes or response to nicotine replacement. Although no smokers relapsed to alcohol use, a trial that follows up all subjects is needed to verify this.