Gastric Bypass Surgery for Weight Loss May Increase Risk of Alcohol Abuse

A popular form of weight-loss surgery may increase the risk of alcohol abuse, The New York Times reports.

The findings come from a study of almost 2,000 weight-loss surgery patients. They were questioned about alcohol abuse one month before, and one and two years after the operation. The researchers found alcohol abuse rose from 7.6 percent before the surgery, to 9.6 percent afterwards. They said that translated into about 2,000 people nationwide who could develop alcohol use disorders after weight-loss surgery annually.

One type of weight-loss surgery was more strongly linked with alcohol abuse. Patients who had the Roux-en-Y surgery were more than twice as likely to abuse alcohol, compared with those who had a laparoscopic adjustable gastric band procedure. The Roux-en-Y procedure reduces the size of the stomach and shortens the intestine, which limits food intake and the body’s ability to absorb calories. In the laparoscopic procedure, an adjustable band is inserted around the stomach, reducing the amount of food the stomach can hold.

Among patients who had the Roux-en-Y surgery, 7 percent had symptoms of alcohol use disorders before the surgery. One year after the surgery, there was not a significant increase, but by the second year, 10.7 of patients had reported symptoms of alcohol use disorders. There was not a significant increase among patients who had the laparoscopic procedure.

The findings appear in The Journal of the American Medical Association.

“Alcohol screening should be included in routine pre- and post-operative care,” lead researcher Wendy King of the University of Pittsburgh said in a news release. She said the increase in symptoms among patients who had the Roux-en-Y procedure was likely a result of an increase in alcohol sensitivity after surgery, in addition to a higher level of alcohol consumption in the second year after surgery.

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    September 5, 2013 at 1:11 PM

    No other common factors other than surgery that can be linked to alcoholism? Maybe better patient after-care would prevent this.

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    March 23, 2013 at 4:47 PM

    Interesting observation, but it doesn’t say why there’s an increased incidence of alcohol abuse following surgery. I wonder if it may be related to substituting alcohol for food.

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