Will Weight Loss Surgery Make You an Alcoholic?

MakenzieR on 19 Jul 2012 at 5:00pm

alcohol gastric bypass

A new study from the University of Pittsburgh found that alcohol abuse increased among patients within two years of gastric bypass surgery.

There have been previous smaller reports of alcohol problems post-bariatric surgery, but according to the LA Times this is the largest of its kind -- nearly 2,000 patients were followed for the two year period.

The team found that 7.6% of the patients suffered from alcohol-abuse disorders (abuse and dependence) in the year before the surgery. At the end of one year after the procedure, the percentage was about the same, 7.3%. But by the end of the second year, the prevalence of such disorders had climbed to 9.6%, a 30% increase. Virtually all of the increase occurred in patients who had undergone gastric bypass, with no increase among the roughly 30% of patients who had a banding procedure.

Part of this could be due to the fact that it’s harder for bypass patients to breakdown the alcohol in their system. 

“Gastric Bypass Surgery bypasses most of your stomach, so there is little stomach to break down the alcohol,” says bariatric surgeon Dr. Shawn Garber. “The alcohol goes directly into the intestines and most patients report that they get drunk a lot quicker after gastric bypass surgery.  It is very important to drink much smaller amounts [post-op].”

Of course this doesn’t mean that you will develop an alcohol problem if you have gastric bypass --  after all, two years post-op 91% of study participants did not report a problem. We see that as pretty good odds.


Photo credit: Piotr Marcinski/Deposit Photos