Nicotine and Alcohol: Why Do I Want to Smoke When I Drink?

Nicotine and Alcohol: Why Do I Want to Smoke When I Drink?

Many people smoke when they drink, but why is this? Whether you have quit nicotine and relapse when drunk or decide to smoke whilst drinking even as a non-smoker, many people smoke cigarettes or e-cigarettes when drinking alcohol.

Learn more about the link between nicotine and alcohol and why so many want to smoke when they drink here.


Is There a Link Between Nicotine and Alcohol?

There is a strong link between nicotine and alcohol, as many individuals who smoke cigarettes also drink alcohol, and the two substances often go hand in hand in social settings and environments.

Several factors contribute to the link between nicotine and alcohol, including:

Shared Addiction Pathways

Both nicotine and alcohol act on the brain’s reward system, particularly the dopamine pathway, which is involved in feelings of pleasure and reward. This can create a mutual effect in the brain when nicotine and alcohol are consumed together, reinforcing each other’s addictive properties.


Nicotine and alcohol can enhance the effects of each other. For example, nicotine can increase the rewarding effects of alcohol, making it more pleasurable to consume. Alcohol can also increase the desire for nicotine, leading to stronger cravings for cigarettes. This is why the two are so commonly linked together.

Social Influences

Smoking and drinking often occur together in social settings such as pubs, nights out and group events between friends, family and acquaintances which increases the likelihood of smoking and drinking together.

Individuals may smoke cigarettes while drinking alcohol to socialise and fit in with others, or as a way to relax if socially anxious or nervous. Some people also consume nicotine and alcohol together to join in with others and not miss out on conversations or experiences.

Withdrawal and Cravings

Nicotine and alcohol dependence can both lead to withdrawal symptoms when consumption is reduced or stopped. Some individuals may use one substance to alleviate withdrawal symptoms from the other, leading to a cycle of addiction.

If a person quits one of the addictive substances, consuming the other often increases the likelihood of a relapse.

Genetic Factors

There may be genetic factors that cause individuals to be more likely to consume nicotine and alcohol together. Studies have identified genetic variants associated with both nicotine dependence and alcohol dependence, suggesting a shared genetic susceptibility which increases the likelihood of drinking and smoking heavily.


Why Alcohol Triggers Nicotine Cravings

Alcohol can trigger nicotine cravings for a number of reasons, with the most significant factor being the way alcohol affects the brain’s reward system. Both alcohol and nicotine activate similar reward pathways in the brain, leading to the release of neurotransmitters like dopamine.

Dopamine is a hormone associated with feelings of pleasure and reward, so when alcohol and nicotine are consumed together, they can increase each other’s effects on these reward pathways which can intensify the pleasurable sensations experienced.

As well as physical changes, alcohol can also lower inhibitions and impair judgment, making individuals more susceptible to nicotine cravings and less likely to resist the urge to smoke. This can be particularly problematic for individuals who are trying to quit smoking, as alcohol consumption can weaken resolve and increase the likelihood of relapse. Find out how to deal with the risk of relapse here.

Is There a Scientific Link Between Nicotine and Alcohol?

There is evidence to suggest that alcohol can enhance the effects of nicotine which makes smoking more rewarding. Over time, this association between nicotine and alcohol can lead to a conditioned response where the consumption of alcohol triggers cravings for nicotine.

Some research also suggests that alcohol may directly affect nicotinic receptors in the brain, which are involved in the addictive properties of nicotine. Alcohol consumption can alter the function of these receptors leading to an increased sensitivity to nicotine and cravings for cigarettes.

The interaction between alcohol and nicotine in the brain’s reward system, combined with the effects of alcohol and the conditioned response to smoking while drinking can contribute to the triggering of nicotine cravings when alcohol is consumed.


Do More People Smoke When They Drink?

It is commonly observed that more people tend to smoke when they drink alcohol, and this can be attributed to various factors.

Social influences are a huge reason why people want to smoke when they drink, as smoking often occurs in social settings where alcohol is also consumed. Being surrounded by others who smoke while drinking can influence individuals to join in due to peer pressure or as a way to socialise or fit in.

Lowered inhibitions due to alcohol consumption can also make individuals more prone to engaging in behaviours they would usually avoid, such as smoking. For some, the combination of alcohol and smoking may enhance relaxation and the pleasurable effects of both substances which can lead to a desire to smoke while drinking.

The association between drinking and smoking can result in a habit which is hard to break and eventually causes the act of drinking to trigger the urge to smoke and vice versa. A huge element of nicotine and alcohol consumption together is habit.

A combination of social factors, lowered inhibitions, and pleasurable cravings are all causes why people smoke when they drink alcohol.


How to Quit Smoking and Drinking

If you commonly ask yourself, ‘why do I want to smoke when I drink?’ and you are struggling to break the cycle, you may need professional support. There are a number of health risks associated with both smoking and excessive alcohol consumption, so it is key to make informed choices about behaviour accordingly.

Some useful tips to help you stop smoking and drinking are to enlist the support of friends or family to encourage you to stop, set strict boundaries with yourself, and avoid alcohol if it consistently causes you to relapse and smoke.

If you struggle with alcohol addiction, we recommend reaching out for help from a specialist. You can ask your GP for advice if you wish to quit drinking and smoking, or if you are experiencing alcohol abuse our team can help you.

Reach out for support by phoning 0151 268 6992 or fill out our contact form with your information.