Smoking May Stymie Effort to Attain 'Perfect Buzz'
NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - In preliminary findings that may help to explain why people tend to drink more when they're puffing on a cigarette, researchers report that nicotine can significantly reduce peak blood alcohol levels in rats.
Further, low doses of nicotine were enough to suppress blood alcohol, suggesting that even a cigarette or two might hinder efforts to achieve the perfect buzz.
Indeed, the study has implications for alcoholics, who tend to drink until they reach an expected level of intoxication and for those who set out to forget the day's events at the local pub, according to Dr. Wei-Jung A. Chen, an assistant professor at Texas A&M University in College Station, and associates.
``Should a person drink for an expected intoxicating effect (i.e., to get drunk) while smoking at the same time, more (alcohol) would have to be consumed to reach the expected level of intoxication,'' they write in the July issue of Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research.
Consequently, these individuals are more likely to suffer from long-term harmful effects of alcohol such as kidney damage.
It is not yet clear why smoking cigarettes reduces blood alcohol levels, but Chen suggests that in the presence of nicotine, alcohol may remain in the stomach, where it is exposed to enzymes that break it down before it ever reaches the bloodstream.
``Therefore, there will be less alcohol absorbed into the bloodstream since some alcohol molecules will be degraded by the gastric enzyme,'' he explained in an interview with Reuters Health.
The researchers gave simultaneous injections of nicotine and alcohol to young rats. Doses of alcohol were constant among all rats but doses of nicotine varied with respect to four groups of rats.
According to the results, even low doses of nicotine lowered peak blood alcohol concentrations. However, Chen cautioned against assuming the results would apply to humans.
``The nicotine absorbed into the bloodstream is highly variable in humans depending on the brand of cigarette smoked, the smoker's habit, etc.,'' he said. ``Furthermore, the rate of nicotine metabolism is different between humans and laboratory animals.''