It has been known for a long time that smoking cigarettes can be a major risk factor for developing alcohol or drug abuse problems. Smokers tend to be more vulnerable to issues of substance abuse and are more likely to use drugs recreationally. The risk factors can be an issue for teens who tend to experiment with nicotine first. Exposure to cigarettes can make it easier for young people to develop problems with alcohol or drug abuse.
The connection between smoking and other types of drug use has proven to be both physical and psychological through studies inquiring into the link.
A recent study using rats showed that even a single exposure to nicotine can change how the brain’s reward system responds to alcohol. The rats in the study that were exposed to nicotine sought to drink alcohol more often than rats that received no exposure. The nicotine also decreased the brain’s reward response to alcohol through activating stress hormone receptors and increasing inhibitory signaling in the brain.
These responses caused the rats to self-administer more alcohol following nicotine exposure. The study was used to determine the mechanisms through which nicotine creates vulnerability for alcohol abuse to come up with strategies to diminish the link. The hope is that preventing young people from experimenting with nicotine can help to reduce the risks for becoming addicted to alcohol or other drugs.
The connection between smoking and other drug use is not only related to its physical effects on the body but in people’s thoughts and attitudes. It is well-known because of the amount of ad campaigns and warning labels on cigarettes that smoking causes serious health risks including cancer. The evidence that smoking is detrimental to your health is often well-known by regular smokers but many of them use forms of rationalization so that they can continue their habit.
Their ability to continue using nicotine in spite of overwhelming evidence that it puts them at risk for health issues is an attitude that can contribute to other types of drug use. Smokers may have no problem with risky types of behavior and have already demonstrated a tendency to downplay or rationalize their unhealthy habits. Studies show that people who regularly smoke cigarettes tend to have a more accepting attitude about other types of drug use including illegal drugs. Their thoughts regarding smoking then influence and can make them more vulnerable to other types of substance abuse.
Developing Drug or Alcohol Problems
Someone who begins smoking regularly has a greater risk of developing a problem with alcohol or illicit drug use. The nicotine affects their brain in a way that makes them seek out other drug use and their accepting attitude toward smoking in spite of its consequences carries over to illicit drugs as well.
Cigarette smoking can be especially problematic for teens that will be at risk for developing other types of addictions as a result of their experimentation with nicotine early on in life. Avoiding smoking in teenage years can help reduce the link between cigarettes and other types of substance use.
Recovery Now Tv’s Cindy Nichols, is an intervention specialist and treatment advisor who helps others through their addiction recovery process. Learn more about the work that she does at www.recoverynowtv.com.