Involvement of tobacco in alcoholism and illicit drug use

Br J Addict. 1990 Feb;85(2):279-91. doi: 10.1111/j.1360-0443.1990.tb03084.x.


Survey data from the United States indicate that tobacco use is associated with the initiation of use of other addicting substances, and that increasing levels of tobacco use are associated with increasing levels of use of other psychoactive substances. Furthermore, factors affecting initiation, abstinence, and relapse to the use of tobacco, alcohol, and opioids are similar in nature. In addition, there are similarities in the addictive process underlying the use of these substances. Taken together, these data suggest that tobacco use is involved, possibly more than by simple association, in the use of other substances containing psychoactive chemicals. In the present paper we discuss the involvement of tobacco in the use of alcohol, opioids, cocaine, and other substances, as well as some of the implications of these observations for researchers and clinicians. One such implication is that it may be possible to use tobacco and nicotine as models for phenomena of interest to other substance use researchers. For example, drug abuse treatment and prevention strategies could be explored using tobacco use as a target behavior, and biological phenomena such as the development of tolerance and physical dependence may be more readily studied with nicotine than with many other drugs. Certain pharmacologic differences across substances are also discussed in light of their implications for development of treatment and drug control policies.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Alcoholism / psychology*
  • Humans
  • Illicit Drugs*
  • Risk Factors
  • Smoking / adverse effects*
  • Smoking / psychology
  • Substance-Related Disorders / psychology*


  • Illicit Drugs