Impaired problem solving, visual spatial processing, memory, and cognitive proficiency are consequences of severe alcoholism. Smoking is much more prevalent among alcoholics than the general population, yet the possible neurocognitive effects of cigarette smoking in alcoholism have not been studied, despite evidence that long-term smoking is associated with neurocognitive deficits.
A research team from the USA set out to determine whether smoking contributes to neurocognitive deficits associated with alcoholism. In their study, to be published in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence (available online 15 September 2005), neurocognitive function was examined in a community-recruited (n = 172) sample of men. Alcohol problems/ alcoholism were measured by the lifetime alcohol problems score, DSM-IV diagnosis, and monthly drinking rate. Smoking was measured in pack-years. Neurocognitive function was measured with IQ, and cognitive proficiency (fast, accurate performance).
Both alcoholism and smoking were negatively correlated with neurocognitive function. When alcoholism and smoking were included in regression models, smoking remained a significant predictor for both measures, but alcoholism remained significant only for IQ.
Smoking may explain some of the relationship between alcoholism and neurocognitive function, perhaps especially for measures that focus on proficiency. The authors state that future studies are necessary to more fully understand the effects of smoking on neurocognitive function in alcoholism.