Drinking and smoking is a solid combination. Most smokers consume more cigarettes when they hit the booze and lots of people only smoke when they drink. Together with good company this is the holy trinity while sitting at the bar. But why is it that drinks and smokes go so well together? American researchers of the Baylor College of Medicine claim to have the answer.
After experimenting with rats, the scientists think that it’s all about stress hormones and the brain’s pleasure centre. They gave rats nicotine before offering them alcohol. In all cases this boosted the rat’s interest in alcohol. Even 15 hours after getting the nicotine, while it takes only 90 minutes before nicotine is out of the rat’s system. With that in mind the scientists concluded that there must be a reaction in the brain.
Now for the technical part. The researchers found that alcohol boosts dopamine levels in the brain’s pleasure centres. This is what gives you an euphoric feeling. However when drinking on a regular basis the brain responds less and less to alcohol and you will require a larger amount of alcohol to reach the same level of pleasure. Nicotine seems to stimulate this process even more.
Also nicotine increases the level of the stress hormone glucocorticoids in the body. This reduced the dopamine-related pleasure for the rats. This is a second reason why the brain encourages you to drink (more) when smoking.
So in conclusion: when you drink a lot, a shot of nicotine can help you control your euphoric feeling. While a drink after smoking undoes the damage those stress hormones did to your brain and make you happy again. Maybe it doesn’t sound as tempting when explained in scientific terms, but at least now you know why that beer and cigarette go so well together.