Recent study controls for genetic variables in cognitive performance
In a new study published in Frontiers, Dr Timothy Durazzo and colleagues from the San Francisco VA Medical Center and University of California, San Francisco, expand upon their decade of research showing that smoking while kicking the alcohol habit impairs memory, learning and other cognitive skills--ultimately making it more difficult to weather the long storm of sobriety.
Cigarettes, substance abuse and the military
"Given our strong and consistent research findings in both Veterans and civilians on the ill-effects of chronic smoking, we truly hope to see smoking cessation programs become increasingly available for our current active-duty war fighters," says Dr. Durazzo
Active duty US soldiers smoke at around a 10% higher rate than the civilian population. And after serving their country in the military, they statistically run higher risks of alcohol and substance abuse. In 2007, over 375,000 VA patients had a substance use disorder diagnosis and nearly 500,000 additional patients had a nicotine dependence. According to Dr. Durazzo, alcohol and cigarettes have a greater negative effect on brain biology and cognitive function when they are combined.
"Our results suggest that it is a high priority to offer comprehensive smoking cessation treatment for all patients, especially for those seeking treatment for alcohol and substance abuse, given the high prevalence of smoking in these individuals," Dr. Durazzo adds.
Controlling for the genetic variables
Previous research showed that variants in the COMT and BDNF genes influence cognitive function. Therefore, the researchers wanted to determine if variants in these genes explained the poorer cognitive performance they repeatedly observed in their smoking alcohol dependent patients.