Smoking Comorbidity in Alcoholism: Neurobiological and Neurocognitive Consequences


  • Proceedings of a symposium presented at the annual meeting of the Research Society on Alcoholism, June 2005, Santa Barbara, CA.

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Considerable research attests to the adverse effects of chronic smoking on cardiac, pulmonary, and vascular function as well as on increased risk for various cancers. However, comparatively little is known about the effects of chronic smoking on brain function. Although smoking rates have decreased in the developed world (they have increased in the developing world), smoking rates have been at a persistently high level in individuals with alcohol use disorders. Despite the high prevalence of comorbid chronic smoking and alcohol dependence, very few studies have addressed the separate and interactive effects that smoking and alcoholic drinking may have on neurobiology and brain function. This symposium, which took place at the annual meeting of the Research Society on Alcoholism in Santa Barbara, California, on June 29, 2005, postulates that the neurobiologic and neurocognitive abnormalities commonly described in studies of alcohol-dependent individuals are modulated by concurrent abuse of tobacco products and that brain recovery in abstinent alcoholic individuals is affected by chronic smoking. Four expert speakers and a discussant from different research disciplines focus in this symposium on the description of neurobiological and neurobehavioral effects because of concomitant drinking and smoking. Understanding the potential separate effects and interactions of chronic nicotine/smoking and alcohol consumption promotes a better understanding of specific mechanisms and neurocognitive consequences of brain injury and brain recovery with abstinence. The material presented contributes useful information to ongoing discussions about treatment strategies for these comorbid disorders and valuable educational material that can be used to affect public perception about smoking and perhaps health policy.