This post was originally published on November 3, 2015.
According to a study released in the journal Alcoholism, the majority of people suffering from alcoholism (or “alcohol use disorder”) smoke, but the ones who keep smoking after getting sober have a higher risk of relapsing within three years of getting off the sauce. Researchers from Yale and Columbia reviewed the results of surveys of 9,134 recovering alcoholics who answered questions regarding the use of and dependence on alcohol both in 2001 and 2002 and then in 2004 and 2005. The results indicated, based on a report from UPI about the study:
“Both daily and non-daily cigarette smokers were found to have twice the likelihood of relapsing into alcohol dependence compared with nonsmokers.”
The researchers concluded that those who were still smoking three years after quitting drinking showed greater tendencies for meeting the requirements of what’s considered alcohol use disorder. Okay, so it seems these survey respondents hadn’t officially relapsed—yet—but the results are compelling nonetheless.
Acknowledging the Danger of Replacing Addictions
Basically, alcoholics might think the cigarettes are keeping them sober, especially in early sobriety, but every drag could be pushing them closer to drinking again. As the UPI story points out, usually treatment facilities or even 12-step programs like AA do not emphasize the powerlessness one might feel over smoking, usually for reasons like my aforementioned cancer versus DUI example. But let’s be clear: cancer and all the other risk factors that come with smoking are still really serious and it’s worth examining the justification for continuing an activity that so blatantly increases those risk factors.
Rehabs and support groups for alcohol use disorder should stop sweeping cigarette smoking under the rug. I’ve personally witnessed friends and coworkers in the midst of trying to quit serious nicotine habits and the withdrawal symptoms are jarring. So continuing to operate as if Camel Lights are an acceptable habit to pick up while one is hopefully eliminating the habit of alcohol seems irresponsible and archaic.
I sure hope eating gummy bears to muscle my way through sobriety some days doesn’t increase the risk for relapse.