A study of alcoholics in treatment for their alcohol problems used brain scans to examine how performance on cognitive tests changes with abstinence from alcohol. Twenty-five alcoholics stopped drinking for six to nine months, but the 12 who smoked continued to smoke.
“We found that the smoking alcoholics over six to nine months of abstinence did not recover certain types of brain function as the non-smoking alcoholics did,” said study author Dieter J. Meyerhoff, a professor of radiology at the University of California, San Francisco. Decision-making skills, thinking speed, 3-D visualization and short-term memory were affected, calling into question the prospects of long-term sobriety, he noted.
And while smoking and non-smoking alcoholics improved on several other cognitive tests, such as learning and remembering words, smokers’ brain function, in general, took longer to recover.