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Alcohol Res Health. 2000;24(4):215-24.

Behavioral mechanisms underlying the link between smoking and drinking.

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  • 1Drug Dependence Unit, Psychology Department, Durham University, Durham, United Kingdom.


Many people use both alcohol and nicotine (i.e., cigarettes and other tobacco products). The behavioral effects of these two drugs differ, and they do not act on the same target sites in the brain, although they may share, or partly share, certain properties. The initiation of alcohol or nicotine use may be precipitated by similar personality characteristics in the user, such as impulsivity and sensation seeking. Moreover, the mechanisms underlying the development of dependence may be similar for alcohol and nicotine. Thus, certain factors, such as reinforcing drug effects, conditioning processes, automatic behavior, and stress, may influence the development of dependence on both drugs. Other factors, such as tolerance and sensitization to the drugs' actions and the development of withdrawal symptoms, may also contribute to dependence. This review discusses the actions of the two drugs on certain brain chemical (i.e., neurotransmitter) systems and the extent to which the effects of the two drugs may interact.

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