Does Drinking Alcohol Make it Harder to Quit Using Smokeless Tobacco? Are People Addicted to Both at the Same Time?
For many years, there have been numerous campaigns targeted at ending smoking. In turn, these have triggered the introduction of smokeless tobacco. While using smokeless tobacco reduces the effects associated with smoking, it’s still the lesser evil. Smokeless tobacco users seek to eliminate the harmful effects of tobacco smoke. However, tobacco still contains nicotine, the substance responsible for addiction.
Smokeless tobacco comes in numerous forms. Most is in the form of tobacco snuff and tobacco leaves. Other forms include tobacco lozenges and dissolved tobacco in the form of pellets or edible Flat Sheets.
Studies have shown that most tobacco users are also drinkers, and most drinkers use tobacco. What does this mean for people who are trying to quit tobacco and not alcohol? Can treatment for addiction involve tobacco only while retaining alcohol? The only way to know is to look at how alcohol affects the decision to use smokeless tobacco.
Here’s How Alcohol Influences the Use of Smokeless Tobacco
1. It Affects Inhibition and Decision Making
One of the main areas that it affects is the prefrontal lobe of the brain. This is the brain area that is responsible for decision-making and inhibition. Consequently, alcohol makes you more likely to act on impulse without thinking of consequences. This includes harmful decisions including the use of tobacco. People who are trying to quit tobacco are more likely to use it when alcohol is taken. Because alcohol also affects your memory, it makes good intentions easier to forget.
2. Alcohol and Social Settings
Social and environmental factors play a huge role in influencing the consumption of alcohol. People are not only likely to drink at a party, but they’re also more likely to binge drink. Binge-drinking is consumption that raises the blood alcohol concentration to about 0.08%.
This typically occurs after about 4-6 glasses of alcohol. The main consequence of binge-drinking is that one gets drunk very fast. This makes it more likely that you’ll pick up a tobacco lozenge.
At social gatherings, recovering addicts may be less likely to admit they’re in treatment for addiction. This is because the topic holds shame for some people.
Social events also make it easier to use tobacco because it’s often readily available. Other tobacco users are also more likely to be found in social settings, thus triggering the urge.
3. Alcohol Increases Tolerance to Other Drugs
Alcohol tolerance is a decrease in the effects of consuming a certain amount of alcohol. As one consumes alcohol more regularly, they eventually need more alcohol to get drunk.
Alcohol tolerance eventually leads to cross-tolerance. In this case, alcohol consumption makes it more like a person will develop tobacco tolerance.
Alcohol and nicotine act on a brain system known as the mesolimbic dopamine system. This is the same center that mediated feelings of reward and is important for reinforcement of behavior.
When one starts to drink alcohol, the mesolimbic center develops high tolerance to the effects of alcohol. Later on, when the same person starts using tobacco, they need it in larger quantities to enjoy the desired effect.
In the long run, those who drink become addicted to tobacco much more easily than those who don’t. This dependence eventually makes the treatment of addiction even harder.
4. Alcohol and Nicotine Processing
According to research done at the University of California, San Francisco, alcohol increases the craving for tobacco. This is because alcohol increases the rate of nicotine breakdown in the body by increasing enzyme concentrations. Consequently, someone who takes alcohol and tobacco is more likely to reach out for another dose of tobacco.
As alcohol consumption increases, tobacco use also increases. In the end, it’s hard to monitor how much tobacco has been taken in. This eventually leads to more complicated addiction, making it harder to treat substance abuse.
Are There Health Effects of Mixing Alcohol and Smokeless Tobacco?
Alcohol and tobacco are harmful products on their own. Both substances contribute to over 20 health complications and non-communicable diseases.
Alcohol contributes to liver damage, cardiovascular disease, alcohol poisoning, and numerous cancers. The use of tobacco leads to cardiovascular disease and even more cancers.
When combined, alcohol and tobacco synergistically can lead to the following health effects:
- Cardiovascular disease, including stroke, heart attack, and atherosclerosis
- Throat and mouth cancer
- Gum infection
- Pregnancy complication
- Suicidal thoughts
Anyone who drinks regularly has probably woken up and asked,” What happened last night?” That is just how much alcohol makes you out of tune with your actions. While not all recovering tobacco addicts are alcohol drinkers, it’s still important to stay away from alcohol, especially during the first few weeks of substance treatment and recovery.
This is the time when one is more likely to go into relapse. Quitting or cutting back on alcohol is one of the best ways to manage tobacco cravings. Drinking alcohol makes it harder to quit using smokeless tobacco. There are also increasing cases of dual diagnosis involving alcohol and smokeless tobacco.