Alcoholics Anonymous meetings mean more coffee, cigarettes

July 19th, 2008 - 3:37 pm ICT by IANS  

Washington, July 19 (IANS) More than a million Americans who attend the Alcoholics Anonymous programme end up by drinking more coffee and smoking more cigarettes than the general population. Most of them drink the beverage for its stimulatory effects; more than half smoke to reduce feelings of depression, anxiety and irritability.

“We knew little about the degree to which this occurred, how much more prevalent these behaviours were compared to the general population, or why AA participants actually drank coffee or smoked cigarettes,” said Peter R. Martin, professor of psychiatry and pharmacology, Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, and a co-author of a new study on the subject.

Martin and his colleagues asked participants in all open AA meetings during 2007 in Nashville to report a variety of information on coffee, cigarette and alcohol consumption.

“The most important finding was that not all recovering alcoholics smoke cigarettes while almost all drink coffee,” said Martin.

Approximately 33 percent drank more than four cups per day. The most common self-reported reasons were because of coffee’s stimulatory effects: feeling better, better concentration, greater alertness.

More than half of the respondents smoked cigarettes; of those, 78.7 percent smoked at least half a pack per day, and more than 60 percent were considered highly or very highly dependent.

The most common reported reasons were because of smoking’s reduction of “negative effect,” which refers to depression, anxiety and irritability.

“Many of these negative affective states are described by patients as contributors or triggers to relapse after periods of sobriety,” said Martin.

“I think that it is important for alcohol researchers and clinicians to know that alcoholics, even those who do not use other illicit drugs, are not just addicted to alcohol, but use other psychotropic drugs like caffeine and nicotine,” said Swift.

“Smoking kills and is at least as harmful for alcoholics as is alcohol. Yet, AA tolerates or otherwise does not address smoking in its members.”

These findings will appear in the October issue of Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research.

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