Smoking is a well-known risk factor for subsequent alcohol abuse, but the mechanisms underlying this link are unknown. Now researchers reporting in the Cell Press journal Neuron on July 18 show in a study conducted in rats that even a single exposure to nicotine temporarily changes how the brain’s reward system responds to alcohol and increases the reinforcing properties of alcohol via stress hormones.
Dr. Dani and his team found that rats exposed to nicotine subsequently sought to drink alcohol more often than other rats. Also, signaling in the brain’s reward system was dampened when the nicotine-exposed animals consumed alcohol. This decreased reward response to alcohol arose via two mechanisms: an initial activation of stress hormone receptors and a subsequent increase in inhibitory signaling in the brain. These processes were responsible for causing the rats to self-administer more alcohol after nicotine exposure.
This makes for a pretty devastating tag-team beating on the average person *if* there is a similar process taking place in human physiology.
Cigarettes, alcohol, marijuana are the most commonly used reality-avoiding / de-stressing soma used in contemporary society. The likelihood of there being some kind of biologically-based synergy in their usage is chilling.