Weight Loss Surgery Tied To Alcoholism

Gastric bypass surgery is designed to drastically decrease the amount of food patients want to and are able to eat, but for a number of people it has had an undesired side effect—it’s making them drink more.

Each year more than 200,000 people have bariatric surgery, which is meant to help people who are obese achieve a healthy weight. New research shows that Roux-en-Y gastric bypass surgery, a procedure that reduces the size of the stomach and shortens the small intestine, can increase the risk of alcohol abuse, ABC News reported.

The study was conducted by researchers at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, adding to evidence supporting the link between gastric bypass and symptoms of alcohol abuse, the ABC News report said. The survey included close to 2,000 participants, with 7 percent showing signs of alcohol abuse before their surgery. After the surgery, that number jumped to 10.7 percent, ABC News reported.

Researchers said they are not sure why the increase in alcoholism takes place more than a year after the surgery instead of immediately following, a story from U.S. News and World Reports stated.

Increases in alcohol abuse could be the result of the surgery’s effect on the stomach and consumption of foods and drinks, Dr. Mitchell Roslin, a bariatric surgeon at New York’s Lenox Hospital, told ABC News.

“A gastric bypass patient has a small pouch [for a stomach] so alcohol goes straight into the intestine and is absorbed rapidly,” Roslin said. “When it is absorbed rapidly, there is a high peak and rapid fall.”

Alcohol abuse was more common in younger patients, men, smokers and those who already had a couple drinks a week or used drugs, U.S. News and World Reports stated. The link between gastric bypass surgery and alcoholism was also brought to light in a Swedish study released in 2011.

While some medical experts questioned the value of the most recent study, lead researcher Wendy King said it should generate important discussions.

The findings “really point to the need for discussions of the benefits and risks to include this,” King told ABC News.