Researchers find link between cigarette cravings and alcohol
June 13, 1997
Web posted at: 9:45 p.m. EDT (0145 GMT)
ATLANTA (CNN) -- It's happy hour, and Bobby Selzer rallies
with buddies at a neighborhood sports bar, a practice he's
refined since adolescence.
"You know how kids do when you're in high school -- you go
out and you get a six-pack of beer, and you get a pack of
cigarettes, that sort of thing," Selzer observes.
Now 36, Selzer has tried unsuccessfully to kick the smoking
part of the ritual. He reports that after two months of
abstinence, alcohol made him cave in to his tobacco craving.
Researchers at Purdue University pooled a group of people
such as Selzer -- heavy smokers and casual drinkers in their
30s -- and concluded that alcohol alone can prompt smokers to
crave a cigarette.
All 60 participants in the Purdue study thought they were
drinking vodka tonics, but half drank only tonic water. The
result: Those who drank alcohol had a 35 percent higher level
of cigarette cravings than those who didn't drink alcohol.
"When people are craving a cigarette, heart rate goes up,
skin conductance or sweat gland activity goes up, your hands
get sweatier and your finger temperature drops slightly,"
said researcher Stephan Tiffany.
But a physical link between cigarettes and alcohol may have
something to do with the brain's so-called "pleasure center."
"Within seconds, maybe within 10 seconds after you take a
puff on a cigarette, the nicotine and the other 4,000
chemicals are in your brain," said psychiatrist Sheldon
"And in a sense, it has a direct pipeline to this pleasure
center. And alcohol also does the same thing."
Selzer is the first to admit that if he is to succeed in his
quest to quit smoking, he may have to modify his weekend
"If anybody wants to quit smoking, they probably should not
drink for at least six months," he says. And with the aid of
a smoking cessation program, Selzer will try again to kick
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