Cigarettes, Alcohol & Pot: Why Some Young Smokers Combine Drugs

woman with pot and alcohol
(Image credit: Joshua Resnick/Shutterstock)

For young smokers, the pleasure of smoking a cigarette is greater when they are also drinking alcohol than when they are also smoking pot, according to a new study.

The findings could have implications for helping people quit smoking, the researchers said.

The researchers surveyed U.S. adults ages 18 to 25 who regularly smoked cigarettes and also used alcohol or marijuana. The participants were asked whether their pleasure from smoking cigarettes changes when they drink alcohol or when they smoke marijuana.

The participants reported that they experience an increase in the pleasure from cigarettes when using alcohol, but not when using marijuana. [25 Odd Facts About Marijuana]

The findings suggest that the reasons why people combine smoking cigarettes with drinking alcohol are different from the reasons they combine smoking cigarettes with smoking marijuana, said study co-author Johannes Thrul, a postdoctoral scholar at the University of California, San Francisco Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education.

"Targeting the increased pleasure from smoking cigarettes when drinking alcohol could enhance effectiveness of smoking cessation interventions among young adults," the researchers wrote in the April 18 issue of the journal Addiction Research & Theory.

On the other hand, the findings suggest that the participants who smoke cigarettes with marijuana are doing so for reasons other than an increase in pleasure, the researchers said. Therefore, "it may be more important to target other reasons for co-use of tobacco and marijuana," they said. For example, they may use the two substances together because the nicotine in tobacco may lessen some of the temporary effects of marijuana, including sedative effects and impairments to thinking , the researchers said.

The study found similar responses among cigarette smokers who used both alcohol and marijuana, and cigarette smokers who used only alcohol or only marijuana.

Future studies should also look at what people say they expect will happen when they use cigarettes and alcohol together, or cigarettes and marijuana together, rather than just asking about perceived pleasure, the researchers said.

Original article on Live Science.

Rachael Rettner

Rachael is a Live Science contributor, and was a former channel editor and senior writer for Live Science between 2010 and 2022. She has a master's degree in journalism from New York University's Science, Health and Environmental Reporting Program. She also holds a B.S. in molecular biology and an M.S. in biology from the University of California, San Diego. Her work has appeared in Scienceline, The Washington Post and Scientific American.