Alcohol and Smoking: A Powerful Addiction Connection

Last Updated: Mar 5th 2020

Reviewed by Brittany Polansky

Alcohol and Smoking: A Powerful Addiction Connection

There’s no question that smoking is a health hazard; the pass-time has claimed the lives of many over the years. Growing up in elementary school, most kids are informed concerning the risks of smoking from guest speakers or their teachers, yet 34 million people in the United States end up smoking. One of the worst parts about this combination is that smoking is more dangerous for those who suffer from alcoholism

Compared to the general population in the United States, alcoholics are anywhere between two to four times more likely to suffer from a tobacco-related disease. There is a 50% chance of death for people who smoke and drink habitually than those who don’t smoke. This being the case, treatment options for conditions such as these are imperative. 

The Hazards of Smoking

Those who smoke cigarettes make themselves susceptible to the harmful toxins cigarettes contain. Once the toxins make it to the bloodstream, the likelihood of damage to one’s arteries becomes a reality. When the artery walls thicken or swell, blood flow to the heart can be interrupted, making the chance of a heart attack more likely. What’s also alarming is that the chance of developing coronary heart disease increases. In the U.S, coronary heart disease is the leading cause of death. 

Smoking has been known by many to increase the likelihood of premature death, whether it be lung cancer or sudden cardiac deaths. Smoking frequently causes the body to reduce circulation. When this happens, the blood cells are narrowed, increasing the likelihood of developing a peripheral vascular disease. What this means is that large arteries in the arms and legs become obstructed.  

How Smoking Impacts Reproductive Health

Smoking is a dangerous habit for many different reasons, but perhaps one of the most detrimental has to do with reproductive health. There are many dangers to female smokers who either want to have children or are already pregnant. Some studies suggest that when women smoke, the risk of infertility grows. 

There are also some studies that suggest that only a quarter, 23% to be exact, of women who are smokers, quit smoking during their pregnancies. This means that 77% of women who smoke keep smoking while they’re pregnant. There are many reasons that this is harmful to children in the womb, some of which include the following:

  • Premature birth
  • Stillbirth
  • Infant death
  • Sudden infant death syndrome
  • Placenta previa
  • Placental abruption
  • Low-birth weight

Smoking: The Leading Preventable Cause of Death in The United States

Smoking is the leading preventable cause of death in the United States, killing one in five people throughout the country. In layman’s terms, that are 480,000 people who die each year from smoking. That’s more than both alcoholism and incidents related to firearms. Something also worth mentioning is that there are ten times as many who have died prematurely from smoking as those who have died in every war fought by the United States, according to some studies. 

Some of these deaths are due in large part to the diseases some of the toxins in cigarettes cause. These diseases include heart disease, lung cancer, and strokes. Some studies suggest that smoking increases the chances of developing:

  • Coronary Heart Disease: 2-4 times more likely
  • Stroke: 2-4 times more likely
  • Lung Cancer: 25 times more likely

Alcoholism

Alcoholism refers to an impenetrable desire to consume alcohol. The temptation to abuse alcohol is so intense because those who suffer have developed a dependency. This leads alcoholics to spend a lot of their time thinking about their next drink. 

When someone uses alcohol, their judgment and decision making are manipulated. This happens when the brain’s pleasure center is activated, intensifying the user’s experience. Over time these desires will become even more difficult to satisfy, and when that happens, the user will develop a dependency. 

Due to one’s mind is focused solely on their drinking habit and their prioritizing alcohol over loved ones, alcoholism has a detrimental impact on family structure. Commonly referred to as neglect, this area could spread to several different aspects of family life; one of them is finances. 

Alcohol, like any other substance, is expensive when purchased conveniently. Because of this, family members become stressed. Financial burdens are not easy, and interestingly enough, finances are one of the leading causes of divorce. Alcoholism has the potential to destroy families or relationships with loved ones. This is why dependency is so dangerous; it is imperative that one recognizes the signs of alcoholism. If someone can call it for what it is, it can save many people a lot of heartaches. 

Signs of Alcoholism

Some signs of alcoholism include the following:

  • Lack of self-control
  • Lack of interest in activities
  • Consistent deceitfulness
  • Consistently under the influence of alcohol
  • Poor mental health

Calling alcoholism for what it is is one of the most frightening aspects of getting help for a loved one. Sometimes, people already know and, due to experiencing grief, they find themselves in denial of it all. For these people, it is imperative that love, grace, and understanding are at the forefront of any conversation or action moving forward. It may not feel right, mostly because of a need for validation, but in these circumstances, it is imperative that the needs of the one suffering are placed above one’s own. 

Factors of Alcoholism

There could be some factors influencing one’s substance abuse behaviors, some of which include the following:

  • Marital problems
  • Peer pressure
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Irritability
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder
  • Emotional abuse
  • Physical abuse

There is nothing random about alcoholism; just because someone was in the mood for a drink and had one doesn’t mean that’s when their alcoholism started. There are many reasons as to why this may have happened to someone, and it is important that the cause of this disease is prioritized over the symptoms. Often, it is so easy to fix what is right in front of us without realizing there are bigger problems that go deeper than just spending too much money on drinks. 

Treatment for Smoking and Alcoholism

Both smoking and alcohol are very dangerous when abused. What’s even more dangerous is when they are used in conjunction with each other. Thankfully, there are treatment options available for those who are suffering from both. Some options that are offered at 1st Step include the following:

Inpatient Treatment

This form of treatment is generally used to treat more severe cases of addiction. It’s a great option for those who require more intensive treatment. This method gives patients 24/7 access to healthcare professionals, and frequent access throughout the week to professionally licensed therapists and psychiatrists. This form of rehab could take anywhere from 28 days to six months to complete. Inpatient treatment has proven itself successful in the cases of many who struggle from substance abuse. 

Outpatient Treatment

Outpatient treatment is a sort of stepping stone between inpatient treatment and the real world. It is also for those who only suffer from mild cases of addiction and don’t require such intensive treatment as an inpatient program. These patients are allowed 10-12 hours of weekly access to professional therapists and psychiatrists. The amount of time to complete this program could range anywhere from three months to over a year. This rehab option is perfect for those who need to recover with minimal disruption to their daily lives. 

Detox Treatment 

Detox treatment is perhaps one of the most important aspects of rehab. There are many patients who have a hard time quitting smoking or drinking habits because of their dependency. Withdrawal symptoms are difficult to kick, and this makes the journey to recovery that much more difficult. This is why we offer medically assisted treatment options for those who need it. At our facilities, we provide our patients with medicine that allows them to stay off of drugs while maximizing their comfortability.  

Therapy

Therapy, whether group or individual, is an important part of rehab. Those who suffer from substance abuse have more than likely suffered from more than just addiction, and some poor circumstances in their lives may have even led to their disorder. The goal of therapy is ultimately to help patients feel validated in their pain and suffering, and then help reshape their perspective on life and addiction. This particular method of treatment helps patients feel understood and that they do not just need to be fixed. 

Take the 1st Step Today

Life with addiction is difficult. It isn’t easy to say no to a cigarette or one innocent drink, and it can often feel debilitating. At 1st Step, we want to help those who are suffering from both smoking and alcohol addictions. Every patient that walks through our doors is unique, and as such, their treatment should reflect that. If you or a loved one are interested in learning more, you can contact us here.

Reviewed for Medical & Clinical Accuracy by Brittany Polansky

Brittany PolanskyBrittany has been working in behavioral health since 2012 and is a Primary Clinician at our facility. She is an LCSW and holds a master’s degree in social work. She has great experience with chemical dependency and co-occurring mental health diagnoses as well as various therapeutic techniques. Brittany is passionate about treating all clients with dignity and respect, and providing a safe environment where clients can begin their healing journey in recovery.