Skip to Main Content

Spotlight on Research: Alcohol and Smoking

Finding New Treatments to Reduce Drinking in Smokers
Stephanie O'Malley
Stephanie O’Malley, PhD, professor of psychiatry
The holiday season offers increased opportunities and temptation to consume alcohol. Now may be a good time to think about participating in a research study designed to help you reduce or stop drinking.

In the early 1990’s, Yale researchers showed that the drug naltrexone reduced the risk of heavy drinking. Their work helped pave the way for FDA approval of naltrexone for alcohol dependence. Today, they are continuing to find better ways to treat alcohol and tobacco addictions by examining whether there are other medications that might reduce how much people drink and/or smoke.

The ADVANCE study is examines the use of Varenicline (Chantix) to reduce alcohol consumption. Varenicline is an FDA-approved prescription medicine developed to help adults quit smoking. It has been prescribed to over 9 million people in the U.S. Varenicline works  at the receptors for the neurotransmitter acetylcholine that may play a role in both nicotine and alcohol disorders.

The ADVANCE study will test whether Varenicline is effective at reducing alcohol drinking  in people who smoke cigarettes. It will also examine whether it has an effect on the craving for tobacco in these individuals.

“There are many people who are drinking at levels that are causing them problems but who are not willing to quit completely” said Stephanie O’Malley, PhD, professor of psychiatry, who directs substance abuse research. “Our hope is that by developing additional  treatments, these individuals will be open to getting help sooner.”

If you are a heavy drinker who smokes cigarettes and would like to reduce or stop drinking, you may be eligible to participate in the ADVANCE study.  If you are interested in finding out more about ADVANCE, please send an e-mail to or call 203-974-5768 or visit the website at