In the short time I've been smoking I've noticed a striking subjective difference between the effects of alcohol and the effects of nicotine. I say subjective because it's purely a difference in how similar levels of "impairment" feel to me.
In high school I decided to give alcohol a good test drive, and so for a month or so I pilfered booze anywhere I could, and went to school anywhere from happy to falling-out-of-my-chair. Naturally, this last state did not go unnoticed, and I got into some trouble over it. Anyway, I discovered that I do not like the loss of control that goes with being drunk. I do, however, enjoy a light buzz.
Fast forward to my cigar adventure. I rarely feel much of an effect from smoking a cigar, but when I do, I find it distinctly unpleasant. At what feels like the same level of "buzz," wine is fun and nicotine annoying. Wine is a warm hug, nicotine is a cold slap in the face. Wine is a lover whispering in my ear, nicotine is a bitch screaming in my face.
So, I thought I'd take a quick look at DiscoveryHealth onloine and see if there is a physical difference in the ways that each substance affects the brain. One that would explain the difference in how I experience them.
Here's a brief rundown. Both alcohol and nicotine affect neurotransmitters in the brain, but they work on different ones. Alcohol enhances the effects of a neurotransmitter that inhibits neural action. At the same time, it inhibits an excitatory neurotransmitter. So, it slows down the transmission of signals in the brain, starting with higher function (stuff we do by will or intention), and moving through lower and lower function until enough of it can stop the neural commands to breathe. Nicotine does rather the opposite, by mimicking and effectively replacing a neurotransmitter that, among other things, controls your basic energy level. Because the quantity of active nicotine is not regulated by the body, it pushes its receptors into overdrive, often causing a burst of adrenalin, a release of sguars (fuel for fight/flight), and eventually the release of endorphins.
Maybe that's why I like one over the other.
Oh, and here's something else I ran across - Duke University Medical Center researchers have found that even small amounts of alcohol boost the pleasurable effects of nicotine, inducing people to smoke more when drinking alcoholic beverages.
I have noticed that I seem to be more likely to feel the effects of nicotine when I'm not drinking an alcoholic beverage with my smoke. Maybe for some, including me, alcohol masks or soothes some of the stimulating effects of nicotine, but leaves behind the mild dizziness, which then feels much like an alcohol buzz.
Well, I'm no rocket surgeon, so I won't go any further in my speculations. Enough for me to know I like the pleasantries of alcohol over the arguments of nicotine. As good a reason as any to make sure every cigar has its glass of port!