Alcoholism After Bariatric Surgery

Weight loss surgery could increase risk for alcoholism

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) One weight loss surgical procedure in particular is suspected to increase a patient’s chances of developing alcoholism two years after surgery. Good support networks and healthcare practices may help lower risk.

A recent study suggests that a certain bariatric procedure may leave many patients prone to alcoholism. Roux-en-Y bypass (RYBG) patients are reporting alcohol use disorders two years after surgery.

"Develop a healthy support network after any surgery."

Wendy C. King, PhD, from the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health, worked with a team of colleagues to investigate the risk of alcoholism in people who have undergone bariatric surgery.

With obesity becoming a common problem, bariatric surgeries to restrict a person’s ability to consume more than small amounts of food by reducing the size of the stomach and intestines are being performed on a regular basis.

Previous studies have provided evidence that alcohol use disorder (AUD) is a real concern for some bariatric surgery patients.  

King's team looked at the rates of alcohol abuse in RYBG and laparoscopic adjustable gastric banding bariatric surgical patients. 

Roux-en-Y bypass is a type of bariatric surgery procedure that was most closely linked with later AUD. There was no significant risk found for AUD after a laparoscopic adjustable gastric banding or ‘lap band’ surgery, suggesting that RYGB affects people differently.  

Authors proposed that there is a possibility that the RYBG surgery can affect how alcohol is absorbed and metabolized in the system, therefore contributing to the chance of AUD from a chemical and metabolic malfunction.

King’s study focused on the statistical prevalence of AUD for the year before through two years after bariatric surgery. They looked at 2,458 bariatric surgery patients from 10 hospitals in the United States.

The final group that completed the pre- and post- surgical survey was made up of 1,945 patients.

Results found that the risk of AUD didn’t change from the year before surgery, 7.6 percent, to the first year after surgery, 7.3 percent. The second year after bariatric surgery was when the risk of AUD really increased, 9.6 percent. Risk was highest in younger males who, prior to surgery, regularly drank, smoked, used recreational drugs and had less of a interpersonal support network.

Study authors conclude that 62.3 percent of people who reported AUD before the surgery continued to have AUD after the surgery. In contrast, 7.9 percent of people who did not report having AUD before the surgery developed AUD after the surgery.

It was statistically significant to note that 60.5 percent of post surgery AUD was reported by people who did not have AUD before the surgery.

“This study has important implications for the care of patients who undergo bariatric surgery. Regardless of alcohol history, patients should be educated about the potential effects of bariatric surgery, in particular RYGB, to increase the risk of AUD. In addition, alcohol screening and, if indicated, referral should be offered as part of routine preoperative and postoperative clinical care. Further research should examine the long-term effect of bariatric surgery on AUD, and the relationship of AUD to postoperative weight control.”

This study was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), June 2012. Funding was provided by the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, no conflicts of interest were found.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
June 20, 2012
Last Updated:
November 19, 2012