Why you crave cigarettes when you drink alcohol
Cigarettes and alcohol go hand in hand, or rather sip and drag.
We all know that feeling when 3 drinks into the night you NEED to smoke a cigggie, even if you haven’t smoked for years.
You can go the whole week without smoking but as soon as you crack a cold one you instantly feel the urge to light up a smoke.
But why is this so?
According to neuroscientist and expert on the mechanisms of addiction, Dr John Dani, this urge is two-pronged:
The first correlates with the link between nicotine and your memory.
The second prong correlates with how nicotine combines with alcohol to….reduce dopamine levels.
Yes read that again, despite what we may think, this deadly duo actually stifles your feel-good chemical, dopamine.
And this is what makes cigarettes so delicious.
Dopamine and you
Firstly, nicotine strengthens the formation of memory pathways. This might also seem odd, but then again the whole reality of smoking is odd in itself.
In 2009 Dr. Dani conducted a test using laboratory mice. The one compartment of mice received a harmless saline injection, while the other compartment received a dose of nicotine.
Naturally the mice enjoyed the nicotine compartment more but what the doctors found interesting was that brain scans showed how nicotine strengthened neuronal connections up to 200%. Simply put, this leads to addiction on a mental level.
Regarding dopamine levels…
It’s been a long known fact that separately smoking and drinking increases dopamine levels.
So, Dr. Dani formulated experiments to see whether when used together they would increase tenfold as expected, but the results revealed the contrary.
The rats that consumed both nicotine and alcohol showed a decrease in dopamine levels.
This indicates that when we drink and smoke at the same time, chemically our brain stops producing dopamine.
So why do we do it?
Alcohol unlocks fond smoking memories and so we spend the rest of the time playing catch with our dopamine, one cigarette and drink at a time.