Previous research has indicated that smoking behavior in the general population is linked to personality traits such as behavioral undercontrol and negative emotionality, but it is unknown whether these traits pertain to alcoholic smokers. Further, prior research has not established whether alcoholic smokers differ from their nonsmoking counterparts in terms of alcohol involvement severity and treatment participation. Exploration of these associations is important, given the high prevalence of cigarette smoking among alcoholics.
Treatment-seeking alcoholics were categorized into daily cigarette smokers (n = 76), nonsmokers (n = 34), and former smokers (n = 33). These groups were compared on personality traits, negative affect, alcohol involvement, and alcohol outpatient treatment participation.
All three groups scored similarly on a variety of personality traits (e.g., extraversion and neuroticism), and on most aspects of negative affect, with the exception of anxiety (smokers scored higher than nonsmokers and former smokers). In terms of alcohol involvement, alcoholic smokers reported greater negative drinking consequences and alcohol physical dependence relative to former smokers, even considering that alcoholic smokers had relatively more abstinent days. Finally, alcoholic smokers attended considerably fewer alcohol outpatient treatment sessions relative to both nonsmokers and former smokers.
Common risk factors for both alcoholism and smoking behavior, such as personality traits and negative affect, may obscure personality differences between smokers and nonsmokers in an alcohol treatment sample. Furthermore, findings suggest that current nicotine use among alcoholics is associated with greater anxiety and severity of alcoholism than among their former-smoking counterparts.