Alcohol and cigarettes are two of the most harmful addictive substances and an addiction to one often goes hand-in-hand with an addiction to another. Unfortunately, many people who make the decision to stop using alcohol and get treatment for this addiction can become even more dependent on cigarettes while in rehab due to using them as a coping mechanism.

So what should you know about the relationship between alcohol and cigarettes and how to detox from alcohol and cigarettes at the same time?

What’s It Like to Detox from Alcohol and Cigarettes?

There’s no doubt that one of the elements alcohol and cigarettes have in common is their highly addictive nature. If you are attempting to detox from alcohol and cigarettes at the same time, you will go through withdrawal symptoms from both. Alcohol detox can be particularly dangerous because it can include tremors, fear, hallucinations and seizures.

Alcohol detox includes different stages. The first stage primarily includes anxiety, nausea and insomnia, and can begin around eight hours after the last drink is taken. Stage two includes high blood pressure and body temperature, confusion and issues with heart rate. Stage three can be the most severe for certain people and symptoms can include hallucinations, seizures and fever.

Nicotine withdrawal can have its own side effects as well, including intense cravings, tingling, sweating, nausea, headaches, sore throat, insomnia, concentration problems, anxiety, and irritation. Quitting nicotine can also lead to depression and weight gain.

The symptoms of withdrawal from nicotine can last for a few days up to a few weeks, and in some cases, people may experience the symptoms of withdrawal from nicotine for a few months.

There are some products that can help you taper off nicotine and reduce the severity of nicotine withdrawal symptoms such as gum and skin patches, as well as prescription nasal sprays and inhalers.

While detoxing from alcohol can include complications and can potentially be life-threatening, nicotine withdrawal is not normally deadly, but it can be uncomfortable and lead to mood and physical changes.

So, what should you know specifically about how to detox from alcohol and cigarettes?

How to Detox From Alcohol and Cigarettes

Since the symptoms of alcohol withdrawal can be life threatening, the safest way to complete detox from alcohol is under medical supervision. 

When someone decides to stop using alcohol, whether on their own or in a rehab facility, they may start to rely more heavily on cigarettes as a coping mechanism to manage their stress and anxiety. Cigarettes aren’t the only way to manage the stress of quitting alcohol. 

As part of relying on cigarettes for coping, people believe that they might be more likely to relapse and use alcohol if they quit using cigarettes at the same time, but there is no proof this is true. In fact, research has found that it can be quite the opposite and that the rates of alcohol relapse are higher in people who smoke during recovery. Allowing one addiction to continue allows the behavior to continue, which can make relapse more likely. 

To detox from both alcohol and cigarettes, you should seek professional help and speak to the team of your rehab program about your desire to stop using both simultaneously. You can even find a rehab program that will help you learn how to detox from alcohol and cigarettes at the same time with a cigarette cessation program.

As with your program to stop using alcohol, when you explore how to detox from alcohol and cigarettes, your program may include different aspects of recovery including counseling, meetings and medication.

There are benefits to deciding to quit using alcohol and cigarettes at the same time, including the fact that you’ll physically feel better and you’ll be able to get on a path toward a complete recovery, rather than continuing a dependence on an addictive substance even after you stop drinking. It may actually be easier for you to make a complete lifestyle change when you stop using alcohol and cigarettes at the same time.

The Relationship Between Alcohol and Cigarettes

Also according to The National Institutes of Health, an estimated 90% of alcoholics also smoke. Even people who aren’t alcoholics say they smoke when they drink. While the number of people who regularly use tobacco is going down, people who consider themselves social smokers is going up.

Research suggests there are several different links or relationships between alcohol and cigarettes. Both act on the dopamine system in the brain and could reinforce both the effects and urge to use either or both drugs. There have also been studies that show nicotine can boost the pleasurable effects of alcohol use and increase alcohol consumption.

Continuing research also shows the negative mental and physical effects of combining alcohol and cigarettes. For example, recent research  shows the combination of excessively using alcohol and cigarettes is associated with memory problems and a range of other negative health outcomes.

If you’ve decided you want to eliminate both alcohol and cigarettes from your life at the same time, it can be a difficult experience because you’re trying to stop using two highly addictive things at the same time. But it’s not impossible.

If you are struggling with alcohol abuse and co-occurring nicotine addiction we can help. Contact The Recovery Village today to learn more about evidence-based treatment programs.

Medical Disclaimer: The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider.