Are smoking and drinking connected? - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Are smoking and drinking connected?

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July 25, 2006

by Helen Chickering, NBC news

Smoking and drinking - two habits that often go hand in hand.   Now research in animals is shedding light on the cigarette-drink connection. Researchers at Texas A&M found evidence that nicotine reduces blood alcohol concentrations, suggesting drinkers who smoke may not feel the effects as much as those who don't light up.    

Relatives may be another risk factor that reduces the response to alcohol. While it's known that alcoholism can run in families, research out of the university of California San Diego finds a person's response to alcohol is affected by the number of alcoholic relatives in the family.  

The more alcoholics in the family, the more drinks it takes to get a buzz.   The researchers say the finding is important - because it could lead to strategies to detect hi-risk drinkers early, and to help prevent them from becoming alcoholics.    

And finally, evidence that the most common drug treatment for alcohol addiction - Naltrexone - may actually encourage - instead of suppress - the urge to drink in some people.  

Scientists at the medical university of South Carolina say heavy drinkers with certain gene variations wanted to drink more when taking the drug, suggesting that a person's genetic make-up may help determine their response to the therapy.      

Researchers stress that Naltrexone works in most people. They say the gene finding might help lead to the creation of custom therapies designed to work with a person's individual genetic make-up.

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