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Effects of cigarette smoking history on neurocognitive recovery over 8 months of abstinence in alcohol-dependent individuals.



This study compared the rate and extent of recovery on measures of learning and memory, processing speed, and working memory in treatment-seeking alcohol-dependent individuals (ALC) who were never smokers (nvsALC), former smokers (fsALC), and active smokers (asALC) over the first 8 months of sustained abstinence from alcohol. Assessments after 1 week, 1 month, and 8 months of abstinence in ALC enabled a comparison of the rates of neurocognitive changes from 1 week to 1 month versus 1 to 8 months of abstinence.


ALC and never-smoking controls were administered standardized measures of auditory-verbal and visuospatial learning and memory, processing speed, and working memory. Controls completed a baseline assessment and a follow-up approximately 9 months later.


Over 8 months of abstinence, asALC showed poorer recovery than nvsALC on visuospatial learning, and both fsALC and asALC recovered less than nvsALC on processing speed measures. The corresponding recovery rates for the ALC group, as a whole, were greater from 1 week to 1 month than from 1 to 8 months of abstinence; these findings were largely driven by improvements in nvsALC. The recovery levels for fsALC on most measures were similar to those in asALC. Additionally, over 8 months, asALC showed significantly less improvement with increasing age than nvsALC on measures of processing speed and learning and memory. At 8 months of abstinence, asALC were inferior to controls and nvsALC on multiple measures, fsALC performed worse than nvsALC on several tests, but nvsALC were not different from controls on any measure.


Overall, ALC showed rapid improvement on measures of visuospatial learning and processing speed during the first month of abstinence from alcohol. Results also provide robust evidence that smoking status influenced the rate and level of neurocognitive recovery over 8 months of abstinence in this ALC cohort.

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