Alcohol Use in Early Tobacco Recovery

Blog Post created by dr_hays on Aug 14, 2015

In the television show “Mad Men”, when one of the main characters lit up a cigarette, a glass of alcohol was never far from reach.  While this was a sign of the times, it highlights the relationship that exists between alcohol and tobacco use.  When planning a quit attempt, it can be helpful to prepare for situations in which a person might drink or be tempted to drink.


Many books, websites, and other literature written on quitting smoking recommend individuals stop drinking or limit their alcohol use during the first weeks of their quit attempt.  A combination of common knowledge and research seems to support this suggestion.  Alcohol has a tendency to lower one’s self-control, which can trigger a desire to smoke.  Lowered inhibitions paired with cravings can put a person at risk of smoking a cigarette.


In the past, I’ve had patients who have tried using alcohol as a means of coping with the stress of stopping smoking.  However, a recent study by researchers in Texas might encourage them to reconsider.  After following 134 participants over the first week of their attempt to stop smoking, the researchers found that alcohol use, particularly on “high intense craving” days, didn’t damped cravings but actually made them worse. 


Ultimately, this decision on alcohol use in recovery is up to you as you know yourself best.  Reflect on your past attempts to stop smoking and how alcohol use has affected your urges to smoke.  If your goal is to limit or avoid alcohol, consider effective strategies you can use on difficult days or how you might respond to someone offering you an alcoholic drink.  Stopping smoking can be challenging, but planning ahead for certain situations can offer an extra layer of protection as you walk along your smoke-free journey.