Studies have shown that people who are addicted to alcohol are also highly likely to smoke cigarettes. A report in the June 2008 issue of the Harvard Mental Health Letter showed that experts tended to believe that it's imperative to counsel alcohol-dependent individuals to quit smoking as well as drinking not only to improve their health, but also to increase their chances of staying sober.
It is a widespread fear that attempting to quit smoking and drinking simultaneously will undermine treatment for alcohol dependence.
Nevertheless, most studies have found that efforts to stop smoking either have zero impact on sustaining sobriety or in reality increase the chances for success of alcohol treatment.
There are no smoking cessation guidelines specifically for alcohol-dependent adults. For now, the best option is to follow the federal guidelines for treating tobacco dependence, which recommend a combination of counseling and medication.
A major and still unresolved question is whether it's better to give up smoking and drinking together, or whether it's better to tackle one addiction at a time.
One study found that when smoking cessation support was postponed by six months, participants were increasingly likely to stay sober compared with those who received simultaneous treatment for both addictions. However, a follow-up examination found that this may have been accurate only for white people in the study.
Editor in chief of the Harvard Mental Health Letter, Dr. Michael Miller, remarks that no particular approach is best for every person struggling with both alcohol and nicotine addiction. It's a net health gain whether an individual quits smoking during alcohol treatment or later.