A new study has shown that having a cigarette while drinking may reduce the effects of the alcohol.
Research on rodents reveals that nicotine reduces blood alcohol concentrators (BACs), which means that smokers need to drink a higher amount of alcohol to feel its effects.
The researchers suggest that this in turn will result in increased levels of alcohol consumption.
"Since the desired effect of alcohol is significantly diminished by nicotine – particularly among heavy or binge drinkers such as college students – this may encourage drinkers to drink more to achieve the pleasurable or expected effect. In other words, cigarette smoking appears to promote the consumption of alcohol," said Wei-Jung A.
Chen, associate professor of neuroscience and experimental therapeutics at The Texas A&M Health Science Center College of Medicine.
Scientists involved in the study injected rats with varying levels of nicotine doses and comparative alcohol doses of 4g per every kg of bodyweight, and then measure the BAC levels.
There were two key findings, said Chen. "One is that the presence of nicotine will significantly reduce peak BAC, and such a pharmacokinetic interaction between alcohol and nicotine may be related to the nicotine dose," he said.
"The second key finding is that the capability of nicotine to decrease BAC can only be observed if alcohol is given through the oral route of administration," said Chen, suggesting that this decrease may be related to gastric function. "Nicotine appears to delay the emptying of the stomach contents, including alcohol, into the intestines, a major site for absorption.
A portion of the alcohol molecules are then subject to metabolism within the stomach, leaving less alcohol passing from the stomach to the intestinal tracts for absorption, thus decreasing alcohol concentration measured downstream in the blood."
Susan Maier, health administrator at the National Institutes of Health, said the breakdown of the alcohol could lead to increased levels of toxic alcohol by-products in the body.
"This would be particularly harmful for adolescents and young adult drinkers, since these populations are amenable to this type of drinking pattern, and may develop chronic alcohol-related diseases earlier in life because of it," she said
"These findings are important in that they highlight the effects of polydrug interactions, which has implications for other drugs, not necessarily illicit drugs, that may be co-used with alcohol, such as aspirin," she added.
The study is published in the August issue of Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research.