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Monday, June 18, 2012

Smoking and Drinking Go Hand In Hand

English: Marlboro cigarette in pack. Marlboro cigarette in pack. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Do you ever come across a really old family photo, perhaps taken during a holiday event or special occasion? If you look closely, you might notice one or all of the adults enjoying a cocktail with cigarette in hand. We could say it is just the way it was and leave it at that, but the truth is this: It really was that way in most American households prior to the 1964 Surgeon General's notice about the dangers of smoking.

In fact, smoking was commonplace in the workplace up until the very late 1980's when companies started banning smoking inside office buildings. And drinking, too, was not out of the ordinary at office events or even in the C-level suites of corporate offices. Many fans of the television show Mad Men wonder if people really did smoke and drink to such excess while working. It will be interesting to see if in the next season of Mad Men which is approaching the mid-sixties time-frame whether they will deal with the Surgeon General's report or even openly deal with alcoholism to the point of "treatment."

We have written often over the past few years about smoking and tobacco abuse. Many people who enter treatment for alcoholism and substance abuse also smoke. Many treatment professionals try to encourage clients/patients to stop all addictions when people agree to go to treatment. But the fact is quitting smoking can be more difficult than quitting drinking and abusing drugs, both legal and illegal.

On June 15, 2012, ABC News reported on a new study that was published in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research. Researchers at Yale University decided to review 88,479 callers' survey answers to the New York State Smoker's Quitline. Amazingly, they discovered that almost 25% of the callers reported hazardous drinking habits along with their smoking issues.  According to the report:

"Once people start drinking, there is a trigger to start smoking," said study author Benjamin Toll, assistant professor of psychiatry at the Yale School of Medicine and director of Smilow Cancer Hospital at Yale-New Haven’s Smoking Cessation Service. "They lose their inhibition to tobacco."

So now the question is this: What do researchers and treatment professionals do with these findings? The findings seem logical and almost obvious, but if the person calls a quitline and the survey responder's results indicate a drinking problem, then should the quitline employee take the next step and try to refer the interviewee for more help to quit drinking? One expert thinks so.

"Someone identified as an unhealthy alcohol user should be referred to medical treatment for a comprehensive evaluation," said Dr. Edwin Salsitz, director of the Methadone Medical Maintenance Program at Beth Israel Medical Center in New York City. "There could be a very valuable role for quitlines… to help alcoholics, after they have been properly assessed."

The History Channel (History.com) offers this educational video History Rocks: Smoking is Hazardous.

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