Study Reveals Nicotine Patches Could Be A Game Changer To Help People Reduce Their Alcohol Intake

Nicotine replacement therapies, such as patches, gums, and nasal sprays, have long been known as useful tools for quitting smoking. But a new study accidentally found that not only are they helpful for cutting back on cigarettes, they might also be an important tool for reducing alcohol intake.

While smoking and drinking are both dangerous, they're even more dangerous when put together (via Tobacco Free Life). Combining smoking cigarettes and drinking alcohol can put you at higher risk for throat and mouth cancers, as well as increasing your overall mortality. The habits often co-occur, and many users say that the two complement each other.

The study, which was published in JAMA Network Open, was originally trying to see if anti-smoking prescription drugs would also help reduce alcohol consumption in those living with HIV who drank heavily. What researchers actually found was that their control group, people who used nicotine replacement therapies, reduced their alcohol consumption at a similar rate to those in the experimental group using prescription drugs.

A surprising finding

The study followed 400 adults who were HIV-positive in Russia for a year. Participants admitted to smoking five or more cigarettes per day and had at least five heavy drinking days per month, defined as five or more drinks in a day for men and four or more for women. They were divided into groups based on their treatment plan, including placebo groups. The assignments were blinded, so both participants and researchers didn't know who had received which treatment.

Researchers were surprised to learn that after three months, both groups experienced decreased alcohol consumption. The prescription drugs did not work any better than the over-the-counter therapies, showing that both were effective in reducing alcohol use.

While further research is needed to confirm the findings, this study is important especially for those living with HIV, who are often excluded from drug trials and who have a high burden of multi-substance abuse and mental health issues.