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Washington, July 20, 2013
A new study has shown how smoking increases a person's vulnerability to alcohol abuse. Smoking is a well-known risk factor for subsequent alcohol abuse, but the mechanisms underlying this link are unknown. The study conducted in rats showed that even a single exposure to nicotine temporarily changes how the brain's reward system responds to alcohol and increases the reinforcing properties of alcohol via stress hormones.

"Our findings indicate the mechanisms by which nicotine influences the neural systems associated with alcohol abuse, providing a foundation for conceptualizing strategies aimed at diminishing the link between smoking and later alcohol abuse," senior author Dr John Dani, of the Baylor College of Medicine, said.

Dr Dani and his team found that rats exposed to nicotine subsequently sought to drink alcohol more often than other rats. Also, signaling in the brain's reward system was dampened when the nicotine-exposed animals consumed alcohol.