Genetic Link Suggested Between Nicotine And Alcohol Dependence
CHICAGO (Reuters Health) - Not only do smoking and drinking often go together, new research on identical twins indicates nicotine dependence may influence some people's risk of becoming alcohol dependent, according to research presented here Monday at the
Dr. Andrew C. Heath, director of the Missouri Alcoholism Research Center at Washington University in St. Louis, led an analysis of data on 6,200 Australian twins.
He said his results show an overlap of alcohol dependence and nicotine dependence that is only partially explained by history of depression, childhood behavior problems, and sociodemographic risk factors.
Although the studies do not indicate that regular smoking causes alcohol dependence, nicotine may play a role in raising the risk of progression to alcohol-dependent behavior.
``If we look at people who are nicotine-dependent, there may be some causal link there,'' Heath told Reuters Health. ``If we look at identical twin pairs, where only one is nicotine-dependent and only one is alcohol-dependent; it's three times as likely that the nicotine-dependent one is also alcohol-dependent. Now those pairs are matched for genetic risk, they are matched for family background risk factors, so it must be something about nicotine dependency itself that is associated with the increased risk of alcohol dependence.''
Heath noted that animal studies hint that nicotine may increase alcohol tolerance, thus allowing drinkers to consume more alcohol, which in turn increases the risk of alcohol dependence.
``We may speculate that that is the process, but it is speculation,'' Heath added.