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The Effects of Smoking and Drinking On Mental Proficiency

Smoking Can Prime the Brain for Later Addiction

An article entitled “Adolescent Smokers Have A Greater Risk Of Developing Alcohol-use Disorders Than Nonsmokers” by Richard A. Grucza, and Kevin W. Chen revealed research findings that are problematic at best. Perhaps the most disturbing was this: research suggests that smoking “primes” the brain for later addiction to alcohol and perhaps other drugs. When added to the following statistic, this information is very disconcerting: alcohol and smoking, when considered independently or in combination, account for more than 20 percent of the annual fatalities in the United States.

Alcohol-Use Disorders

It is common knowledge that many people started smoking and drinking when they were teenagers. According to research findings, moreover, smokers, especially adolescent smokers, unmistakably have a greater susceptibility to alcohol-use disorders (AUDs) than do non-smokers. Therefore, the earlier a person starts to smoke, the more vulnerable he or she may be to subsequent alcohol abuse, alcoholism, alcohol intoxication, and alcohol withdrawal.

Can Teens Quit Smoking Anytime They Choose?

Approximately 25 years ago I had a job as a child-care worker and worked with emotionally handicapped teens. I remember some of the older patients who were allowed to smoke tell me that they could quit smoking anytime they made up their mind to do so. My response to them, even then, was that this may in fact be true, but the longer they smoke the stronger the habit will become. At some point, moreover, the habit will be so compelling that quitting smoking will be extremely difficult. The point: many teenagers who start smoking see this as “no big deal.” Based on the current research, however, they couldn’t be more incorrect.

A Blueprint for Disease and Devastation

If smoking does in fact “prime” the brain for addiction to alcohol and potentially other drugs later in life, what are the consequences? Basically this: teens who smoke, no matter how “innocent” the intent, may be inadvertently constructing and following a blueprint that leads to the misery, broken relationships, financial ruin, psychological problems, and the physical diseases that are characteristic of long-tern drug and alcohol abuse.

Fifty to Eighty Percent of Alcoholics Smoke

According to another article entitled “Long-term Tobacco Use Associated With Dulled Thinking And Lower IQ, Study Finds,” researchers at the University of Michigan found that both smoking and alcoholism result in diminished thinking ability. The Michigan researchers also discovered that 50 to 80% of alcoholics smoke. If 50 to 80 percent of alcoholics smoke, and both smoking and alcoholism negatively impact the brain's higher functions, then most alcoholics are doing a double whammy on their mental proficiency. Pardon the pun, but this is a sobering thought, especially when teens and young adults are the ones who are doing the smoking and the drinking.


Let us keep in mind that for all intents and purposes every addict starts out as an occasional user who has made an intentional and conscious decision to involve himself or herself with a specific substance or activity. As time goes by and as the person continues to partake of the substance or activity, however, the person makes a transition from being a voluntary to a compulsive user. As a result, and in conjunction with the findings from the two studies outlined above, people, especially our youth, need to be educated and made aware of the risks and devastation than can result from smoking, alcohol abuse, and from alcoholism.

Copyright 2007 - Denny Soinski. All Rights Reserved Worldwide. Reprint Rights: You may reprint this article as long as you leave all of the links active, do not edit the article in any way, and give the author credit.

About the Author: Denny Soinski, Ph.D, writes about alcohol abuse, alcohol addiction, alcohol testing, alcoholism, alcohol recovery, alcohol treatment, and alcohol rehab. For more information, please visit alcohol use and abuse right away!

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