Smokers Recovering from Alcohol Dependence Fare Worse Neurocognitively

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Smoking status may influence the rate and level of neurocognitive recovery among people with alcohol-use disorder, according to researchers.

Over eight months of sustained alcohol abstinence, both active and former smokers who were seeking treatment for alcohol-use disorder had poorer recovery on measures of learning compared with those who had never smoked, Timothy C. Durazzo, PhD, of the in Center for Imaging of Neurodegenerative Diseases at the San Francisco Veterans Association Medical Center, and colleagues reported in Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research.

They administered standardized measures of auditory-verbal and visuospatial learning and memory, processing speed, and working memory to 133 patients with alcohol dependence, who were seeking treatment, at baseline and again nine months later.

Smoking status among participants was as follows: 30 had never smoked, 28 were former smokers, and 75 were active smokers. The control group consisted of 39 participants who had never smoked. 

After eight months of abstinence, former smokers had poorer recovery on visuospatial learning than never smokers, and both former and current smokers recovered less than never smokers on processing speed measures, the researchers found.

In general, recovery levels among former and current smokers were similar on most measures. Former smokers had significantly less improvement with increasing age on measures of processing speed, learning and memory compared with never smokers. In the group overall, recovery rates were better during the first month compared with the following eight months of abstinence.

"Results [...] provide robust evidence that smoking status influenced the rate and level of neurocognitive recovery over 8 months of abstinence in this ALC cohort," according to the researchers.

 

Smokers Recovering from Alcohol Dependence Fare Worse Neurocognitively
Smokers Recovering from Alcohol Dependence Fare Worse Neurocognitively

Numerous studies have shown that individuals with an alcohol use disorder perform worse than those without one on multiple neurocognitive domains of function following detoxification from alcohol, although the level of impairment can vary widely among individuals.

A new study of the degree of neurocognitive recovery in treatment-seeking alcohol dependent individuals (ALC) - with varied degrees of smoking status - during the first eight months of sustained abstinence from alcohol has found that smoking status influenced the rate and level of recovery. 

Results will be published in the November 2014 online-only issue of Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research and are currently available at Early View.

"To our knowledge, there have been no previous studies that used multiple assessment points to investigate the effects of cigarette smoking on cognitive recovery over the first eight months of abstinence from alcohol," said corresponding author, Timothy C. Durazzo, PhD, of the University of California San Francisco.

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