• Humangerie Team

The time has come: understanding why we smoke more cigarettes when we are consuming alcohol.

Yes, I know that we have all asked ourselves this question millions of times. And yet, for some reason, every time this dilemma comes up, we are not able to go research an answer.

So, take the time to answer this existential dilemma in this brief moment of your sobriety.

What is it when we are drinking that transforms that bitter burning sensation into a sweet flavor of psychophysical actualization?

(Obviously I’m writing this article with my gin tonic at arms reach and cigarette in hand.)

Let’s start from a basic fact. As the Journal of Neurochemistry explains, alcohol makes us sleepy while cigarettes keep us awake: the coupled reaction of these two drugs, then, strengthens one another. This is one of the reasons that this orgasmic union exists, but it is not the only one and it is not the most important.

Let’s move on to the psychological part.

As Dr. Thakkar explains in his study, both substances operate in the same region of the brain, that of the ‘reward center.’ As you can guess from the name, therefore, both alcohol and cigarettes give a certain satisfaction to our brains and, when combined, further increase the pleasant side effects of these two substances.

Whenever we smoke or drink, this reward center releases dopamine which increases our responsiveness and sense of pleasure. So, obviously, we desire for more activities that give us this sort of pleasure, and we end up ‘unconsciously’ repeating them; and this is where another factor comes into play: our memory.

Since smoking and/or drinking has a specific impact on our brain, we create an association between cigarettes, friends and getting drunk that we want to repeat. This is also the reason why, for example, we feel the urge to smoke when we’re watching an actor on television smoke as well.

It’s also been confirmed that, despite the fact that alcohol and cigarettes release dopamine, when combined they actually cancel each other out a bit: so, unlike we thought, it actually doesn’t make us happier to smoke when drinking, but less. In turn, our brain seeks out both of the elements to rebalance that ‘lost happiness’ and, at the same time, is able to thanks to our preconceived notions of this.

These reasons also explain why an ex-smoker has such a hard time losing their vice - especially when they start to drink. Every time that he or she sees a cigarette, irrationally, their brains begin to associate that chemical with ‘happy’ situations and that desire to smoke takes them over. In addition, if you’re drinking, there’s no way to satisfy that memory that was used to associating itself with cigarettes, and even after 10 years we still may find ourselves begging our friend for just a puff.

Lastly, both substances are considered legal drugs and this factor aids in turn their use of them combined: feeling like a perennial teenager who is breaking the rules, having an excuse to socialize and be more uninhibited, are all factors that have a big impact on the psychological use behind these substances.

Shockingly, this phenomenon is actually much more present amongst women than men. And they call us mature, huh?

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