Coffee and Cigarettes: One May Help Curb Alcohol Addiction

Articles
October 06, 2008

Coffee and Cigarettes: One May Help Curb Alcohol Addiction

The ubiquitous image of attendees at Alcoholics Anonymous meetings grasping a mug of coffee may turn out to be a revealing portrait of behavior that can actually contribute to longer lasting recovery, according to a report featured in the October issue of Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research (ACER).

The ubiquitous image of attendees at Alcoholics Anonymous meetings grasping a mug of coffee may turn out to be a revealing portrait of behavior that can actually contribute to longer lasting recovery, according to a report featured in the October issue of Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research (ACER).

While AA participants are well known for both cigarette smoking and coffee drinking at meetings and outside the group, this report is one of the first to examine the consumption of coffee as related to alcoholism recovery.

Senior writer Peter Martin, MD, and colleagues at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, asked 289 participants in all open AA meetings during the summer of 2007 in Nashville to self-report a variety of information related to coffee, cigarette, and alcohol consumption. Co-author and university student Michael Reich developed the questionnaire and conducted the research as part of the medical school's Emphasis Program.

The survey revealed that a greater proportion of AA participants drink coffee (88.5 percent) than smoke cigarettes (56.9 percent) and more than the general public. While one-third of the coffee drinkers drank more than four cups per day for "its stimulatory effects," nearly 80 percent of the smokers consumed at least a half-pack of cigarettes per day citing that they were “highly” or “very highly” dependent.

“This is very important indeed in this era of attempting to develop medications that may enhance recovery by diminishing craving and relapse to alcoholism,” Dr. Martin said. He intends further study to answer whether such behavior is "simply a way to bond or connect in AA meetings [or whether] these natural compounds result in pharmacological actions that affect the brain…and could they impact recovery from alcoholism."

He believes that AA members may be going in the right direction when they reduce smoking and—perhaps--increase their coffee drinking." Further studies may determine whether any of these factors are predictive of recovery from alcoholism.

The study was funded by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism and the National Institute on Drug Abuse. The article, “Coffee and Cigarette Consumption and Perceived Effects in Recovering Alcoholics Participating in Alcoholics Anonymous in Nashville, TN” was co-authored by Peter Martin, M.D., director of the Vanderbilt Division of Addiction Medicine, and University student Michael Reich, A.J. Reid Finlayson, M.D., Vanderbilt Addiction Center in the Department of Psychiatry; Mary Dietrich, Ph.D., Department of Biostatistics at the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, and Edward Fischer, Ph.D., Department of Anthropology at Vanderbilt University.