Razi Berry

Many people consider quitting smoking as a New Year’s Resolution. If this is you, perhaps cutting back on the amount of alcohol you’re drinking may help.

Heavy drinkers who try and quit smoking have an easier time if alcohol use is also reduced

Recent research has shown that heavy drinkers who try and quit smoking have a much easier time if alcohol use is also reduced. The reason for this may be that the amount of nicotine that stays in the body increases as alcohol intake decreases  – at least in those who drink consistently.

Past research suggested a higher nicotine metabolism ratio equates with people who smoke more and have a harder time quitting

Past research has suggested that that a higher nicotine metabolism ratio equates with people who smoke more and have a harder time quitting. Higher nicotine metabolism ratios are thought to also be correlated with higher amounts of alcohol intake. One can slow their nicotine metabolism rate through reduction of drinking. This could provide the edge some people need to be successful in tobacco cessation.

Research suggests that drinking is changing the nicotine metabolism as indexed by the nicotine metabolite ratio

Sarah Dermody, an assistant professor at Oregon State University and the study’s lead author said, “It takes a lot of determination to quit smoking, often several attempts. This research suggests that drinking is changing the nicotine metabolism as indexed by the nicotine metabolite ratio, and that daily smoking and heavy drinking may best be treated together.”

The study was just published in the journal Nicotine & Tobacco Research.

Alcohol and cigarette use is widespread

Use of both alcohol and cigarettes is widespread, with nearly 1 in 5 adults using both. Cigarette use is especially prevalent in heavy drinkers. Drinking is a well-established risk factor for smoking, and smoking is well-established risk factor for drinking.

Dermody and colleagues at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health in Toronto, Canada, wanted to better understand the links between the two. They studied the nicotine metabolite ratio, an index of nicotine metabolism, in a group of 22 daily smokers who were seeking treatment for alcohol use disorder – the medical term for severe problem drinking – over several weeks.

Nicotine metabolite ratio is clinically useful

“What’s really interesting is that the nicotine metabolite ratio is clinically useful,” Dermody said. “People with a higher ratio have a harder time quitting smoking cold turkey. They have are also less likely to successfully quit using nicotine replacement therapy products.”

Men who reduced their drinking saw their nicotine metabolite rate also drop

They found that as the men in the study group reduced their drinking – from an average of 29 drinks per week to 7 – their nicotine metabolite rate also dropped.

The value of nicotine metabolite ratio biomarker to inform treatment for smokers trying to quit

The researchers’ findings for men replicated those of an earlier study that found similar effects and provide further evidence of the value of the nicotine metabolite ratio biomarker to inform treatment for smokers trying to quit, Dermody said.

“The nicotine metabolite ratio was thought to be a stable index, but it may not be as stable as we thought,” Dermody said. “From a clinical standpoint, that’s a positive thing, because if someone wants to stop smoking, we may want to encourage them to reduce their drinking to encourage their smoking cessation plan.”

Women in the study did not see reductions in their nicotine metabolite ratio

The women in the study did not see reductions in their nicotine metabolite ratio, but the researchers also did not find that the women in the study reduced their drinking significantly during the study period.

“The rate of drinking for women in the study started low and stayed low,” Dermody said. “I anticipate that in a larger generalized study we would not see the difference between men and women like that.”

New study of the links between smoking and drinking is in the works

Dermody is preparing a new study of the links between smoking and drinking. She hopes to recruit heavy drinkers who also smoke to participate in an intervention to reduce their drinking. The study will also examine the effects on smoking to try and replicate the findings in a larger group.

“This research is demonstrating the value in addressing both smoking and drinking together,” she said. “The question now is how best to do that.”

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Razi Berry is the founder and publisher of  the journal Naturopathic Doctor News & Review  that has been in print since 2005 and the premier consumer-faced website of naturopathic medicine, NaturalPath.  She is the host of The Natural Cancer Prevention Summit and The Heart Revolution-Heal, Empower and Follow Your Heart, and the popular 10 week Sugar Free Summer program. From a near death experience as a young girl that healed her failing heart, to later overcoming infertility and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and Fibromyalgia through naturopathic medicine, Razi has lived the mind/body healing paradigm. Her projects uniquely capture the tradition and philosophy of naturopathy: The healing power of nature, the vital life force in every living thing and the undeniable role that science and mind/body medicine have in creating health and overcoming dis-ease. Follow Razi on Facebook at Razi Berry and join us at  Love is Medicine  to explore the convergence of love and health.

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