Replacing Burgers with Booze

Weight loss surgery for people who binge eat may shift into substance abuse

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

(RxWiki News) Compulsive consumption of food can be stopped with weight loss surgery, but the need to consume can be redirected. Substance abuse is a risk factor for some patients.

A recent study looked at substance abuse in weight loss surgery patients. This study's results found an increase in overall substance abuse, especially alcohol.

The authors believe the increase in substance abuse was a replacement for the compulsive eating involved with obese people’s binge-eating disorder.

"Substance abuse can be treated - ask a therapist."

Alexis Conason, PhD, from the New York Obesity Nutrition Research Center, led an investigation into weight-loss surgery and substance abuse.

For the study, 155 weight loss surgery patients were surveyed about their drug, alcohol and tobacco use one, three, six, 12 and 24 months after surgery compared to before.

A total of 100 participants had laparoscopic Roux-en-Y gastric bypass surgery (LRYGB) and 55 underwent laparoscopic adjustable gastric band surgery (Lap-Band).

Results showed that most patients reported lower substance use right after surgery, but by the three-month mark—rates were on the rise. By 24 months, patients reported increases in all substances used.

Before surgery, 10 percent smoked, 5 percent used drugs and 61 percent drank alcohol. Overall, 60 percent of patients were substance users.

Right after surgery, 7 percent smoked, 5 percent used drugs and 20 percent drank alcohol. Overall, 22 percent of patients were substance users.

Twenty-four months after surgery, 8 percent smoked, 13 percent used drugs and 63 percent drank alcohol. Overall, 63 percent of patients were substance users.

LRYGB patients showed an even greater increase than in alcohol consumption after 24 months than Lap-Band patients.

They said, “[A]lcohol and drugs (including nicotine) are likely to substitute for overeating following weight loss surgery.”

Authors recommend doctors and patients take risk factors such as personal or family history for substance abuse, into consideration before going ahead with the surgery.

This study was published in October in the Archives of Surgery.

No funding information was given and no conflicts of interest were reported.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
October 23, 2012
Last Updated:
October 24, 2012