Researchers have found that chronic cigarette use continues to impact the brain systems regulating postural stability even during abstinence from alcohol.
Postural instability is also common among alcohol dependent (AD) individuals, because of damage to the brain systems that maintain postural stability.
Thomas Paul Schmidt, a research associate in the department of radiology and biomedical imaging at the University of California San Francisco, and San Francisco Veterans Affairs Medical Center, said based on both anecdotal and empirical findings, postural instabilities with eyes open or closed appear to be highly prevalent in treatment-seeking AD individuals.
Schmidt and his colleagues recruited AD study participants from substance-abuse outpatient clinics and controls from the local community. To assess postural stability and balance, an ataxia battery was administered to 115 smoking and non-smoking AD individuals and to 74 smoking and non-smoking light/non-drinking controls. Subgroups of AD individuals were assessed at three testing sessions during abstinence from alcohol: one week, five weeks, and 34 weeks of abstinence.
All controls were assessed once, and a subset of the non-smoking controls was re-tested after 40 weeks. Using this data, study authors tested if cigarette smoking affected postural stability in both the control and AD groups, and if smoking influenced changes of postural stability during alcohol abstinence.
Schmidt said one of their key findings was that non-smoking AD individuals improved significantly on a measure of postural stability over the course of eight months of sobriety.
He said smoking AD individuals exhibited no significant improvement across a similar timeinterval. This suggests that the neural and perceptual mechanisms responsible for postural stability are impacted by smoking, and even after chronic alcohol consumption has ceased.
The study has been published online in the journalism Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research.