A team of scientists from the School of Medicine of the University of Missouri have discovered that nicotine wears out alcohol’s sleep-inducing properties, which might explain why smoking and drinking alcohol often come together. The paper is published in the Journal of Neurochemistry.
Why do cigarette smokers often also tend to drinking alcohol, and vice-versa? Is there a causal link between the two? As per the findings of the new research, the key lies in nicotine playing on alcohol’s effect of provoking sleepiness.
The lead author of the study, Mahesh Thakkar, has studied the sleep-inducing effects of alcohol and nicotine in the past. He has found that when both are consumed, an area of the brain called the reward centre is activated, thereby bringing about pleasurable side effects – this, in turn, causes the person to drink even more alcohol. Now, how does this happen? The results show that nicotine suppresses the sleep-inducing effects of alcohol by impacting upon the basal forebrain.
“We know that many people who drink alcohol also use nicotine, but we don’t know why exactly that is,” said Mahesh Thakkar, Ph.D., associate professor and director of research in the MU School of Medicine’s Department of. “We have found that nicotine weakens the sleep-inducing effects of alcohol by stimulating a response in an area of the brain known as the basal forebrain. By identifying the reactions that take place when people smoke and drink, we may be able to use this knowledge to help curb alcohol and nicotine addiction.”
Therefore, as the person smokes and drinks, the sleep-inducing effect of alcohol is cancelled, and he is led to drinking even more, and ultimately to smoke more.
“One of the adverse effects of drinking alcohol is sleepiness,” Thakkar said. “However, when used in conjunction with alcohol, nicotine acts as a stimulant to ward off sleep. If an individual smokes, then he or she is much more likely to consume more alcohol, and vice-versa. They feed off one another.”
The researchers are positive that their paper will help not only heavy drinkers and smokers, but also patients with mental conditions (like schizophrenia) associated with smoking.