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Smoking and alcohol use disorders commonly occur together. People who drink alcohol are three times more likely to smoke, and smokers are four times more likely than the general population to be dependent on alcohol. When nicotine and alcohol dependence occur together, the health risks are increased, and the chances of quitting smoking and drinking are lower. The exact mechanism of co-occurring nicotine and alcohol dependence is not clearly understood. In everyday clinical practice, interventions used for smoking cessation are not combined with treatment of alcohol dependence. Our clinical research program is focused on developing new medications to treat alcohol and nicotine dependence simultaneously. Two investigational new drugs recently tested at our division decreased drinking and/or smoking severity and prevented cognitive problems associated with smoking and drinking. Our goal is to establish the safety and efficacy of these neuroprotective agents in different patient populations. Preventing cognitive decline is of great importance to inpatients with addiction. Development of new, neuroprotective medications may reduce harm associated with heavy smoking and alcohol use.
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