A new study has shown that the joint use of tobacco and alcohol may increase neural damage in some brain regions.
Previously, scientists have found that heavy smoking can cause chemical changes, oxidative stress, and inflammation in the brain.
Many people who smoke tobacco also drink alcohol excessively. And heavy drinking of alcohol could harm the brain similarly.
However, very few studies so far have examined the combined effects of smoking and alcohol on the brain.
In the present study, the researchers wanted to find out how drinking and smoking together affect regions of the brain involved in drug addiction.
They treated rats with alcohol, tobacco smoke or both twice a day for 28 days.
They found that combined alcohol and smoking could increase the level of reactive oxygen species in the hippocampus, an important brain region for memory functions.
In addition, in the striatum and frontal cortex, rats getting both smoking and alcohol showed lower levels of the brain-derived neurotrophic factor.
This is a growth factor that helps neurons survive and stimulates the growth of new ones.
The results suggest that using both alcohol and tobacco may increase the risk of neural damage.
The research is published in ACS Chemical Neuroscience.
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Further reading: ACS Chemical Neuroscience.