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Negative affect is associated with alcohol, but not cigarette use in heavy drinking smokers.


Co-use of alcohol and cigarettes is highly prevalent, and heavy drinking smokers represent a large and difficult-to-treat subgroup of smokers. Negative affect, including anxiety and depressive symptomatology, has been associated with both cigarette and alcohol use independently, but less is known about the role of negative affect in heavy drinking smokers. Furthermore, while some studies have shown negative affect to precede substance use, a precise biobehavioral mechanism has not been established. The aims of the present study were twofold. First, to test whether negative affect is associated with alcohol and cigarette use in a large community sample of heavy drinking smokers (n=461). And second, to examine craving as a plausible statistical mediator of the association between negative affect and alcohol and/or cigarette use. Hypothesis testing was conducted using a structural equation modeling approach with cross-sectional data. Analysis revealed a significant main effect of negative affect on alcohol use (β=0.210, p<0.05), but not cigarette use (β=0.131, p>0.10) in this sample. Mediational analysis revealed that alcohol craving was a full statistical mediator of this association (p<0.05), such that there was no direct association between negative affect and alcohol use after accounting for alcohol craving. These results are consistent with a negative reinforcement and relief craving models of alcohol use insofar as the experience of negative affect was associated with increased alcohol use, and the relationship was statistically mediated by alcohol craving, presumably to alleviate negative affect. Further longitudinal or experimental studies are warranted to enhance the causal inferences of this mediated effect.

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