Alcohol Abuse Increases After Weight-Loss Surgery

Published Online: Tuesday, July 10, 2012
There is evidence that patients who have undergone bariatric surgeries reach a higher peak alcohol level after consuming a given amount of alcohol, reach peak alcohol level more quickly, and take longer to regain sobriety. To gauge whether bariatric surgery is associated with an increased risk of alcohol abuse, a team of researchers conducted a prospective study of patients undergoing the surgery at 10 hospitals in the United States.

The study, published online on June 20, 2012, in the Journal of the American Medical Association, included 1945 bariatric surgery patients who completed preoperative and postoperative assessments. The results found that participants’ rate of alcohol use disorder (AUD) did not differ significantly between 1 year before and 1 year after surgery (7.6% vs 7.3%), but rose significantly in the second postoperative year to 9.6%.

Those who underwent the Roux-en-Y gastric bypass (RYGB) procedure were more than twice as likely to develop AUD as those who underwent laparoscopic adjustable gastric banding. Other factors associated with an increased risk of developing AUD included being male, smoking, using recreational drugs, being younger, and having a lower sense of belonging.

The researchers propose that patients undergoing bariatric surgery, especially RYGB, should be counseled on the increased risk of alcohol dependency and screened for possible alcohol abuse.

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