People who drink heavily and smoke may have more signs of early aging of the brain, including problems with memory, quick thinking and problem solving, compared with heavy drinkers who are nonsmokers.
The findings, from a study by Yale researchers, indicate early aging of the brain gets worse over time for heavy drinkers who smoke, HealthDay reports.
The study included four groups of participants: 39 healthy people who never smoked, and three groups of people seeking treatment for alcoholism. Of these, 30 had never smoked, 21 were former smokers, and 68 currently smoked. After one month of alcoholism treatment, those who were current smokers showed greater-than-normal effects on learning, memory, reasoning and problem-solving, fine motor skills and processing speed.
Those who were treated for alcoholism and had never smoked or were former smokers had similar outcomes to the healthy participants who had never smoked. “These results indicate the combination of alcohol dependence and active chronic smoking was related to an abnormal decline in multiple cognitive functions with increasing age,” researcher Timothy C. Durazzo said in a news release. “The combined effects of these drugs are especially harmful and become even more apparent in older age.”
Co-researcher Alecia Dager noted that many heavy drinkers also smoke, but the issue of smoking is often ignored in alcohol treatment programs. People seeking treatment for alcohol abuse should be offered smoking cessation help, the researchers recommended in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research.