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Gastric Bypass May Increase Alcohol Abuse Risk: Study

Another possible side effect of gastric bypass surgery and other extreme weight loss measures may include an increased risk of alcohol abuse, according to new research. 

In a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), researchers from the University of Pittsburgh identified a possible link between alcohol use disorder (AUD) and bariatric surgery; a category encompassing a number of stomach-altering operations designed to cause drastic weight loss.

The research was designed to follow up on anecdotal claims that have surrounded gastric bypass, which involves surgically altering the stomach to be a fraction of its original size.

Researchers conducted a prospective cohort study of 2,458 people who underwent gastric bypass surgery or had a lap-band implanted at 10 U.S. hospitals. They found that there was a sudden 10% increase in alcohol abuse among people who received bariatric surgery two years after the operations. The strongest association was with gastric bypass surgery and seen among men and younger participants.

Gastric bypass surgery alters the size and shape of the stomach and intestines in order to address issues of extreme obesity and to promote rapid weight loss. The procedure has gained in popularity in recent years as a solution for extremely overweight individuals.

According to a different study published last September, complications from gastric bypass and other forms of bariatric surgery are frequently seen, including malnutrition, vision problems, vitamin deficiencies and other health problems. All of the procedures, including the lap-band and duodenal surgery as well as gastric bypass, require nutritional supplements and a major alteration of the recpient’s diet for the rest of their life.

Some doctors have also expressed concern that gastric bypass surgery may trigger a genetic disorder in some patients that leads to genetic mutations, causing uncontrolled weight loss and possibly death.

About 220,000 people in the U.S. underwent bariatric surgery in 2009. Gastric bypass is the most popular, and duodenal is only performed in about 1% of those operations and is reserved for the most extreme cases of obesity.

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11 comments

  1. Ruben Reply

    In had gastric bypass surgery 8 years ago. I’ve been struggling with alcoholism ever since. I had a successful business, married, owned my own home, and I had some years that I made a six figure income. 8 years of psych wards, in and out patient programs, AA, and even a DUI later, I’m still suffering.

  2. Larry Reply

    I had the surgery in 2009 and my now ex what it the year before. We soon tired of not being able enjoy certain foods that caused us to suffer carb dumping. We discovered wine and beer didn’t make us ill. Within a year Igot my first DUII followed a year and a half later by divorce and th loss of my home in 2012. Between August of 2012 having been in and out of rehab, multiple emergency room visits and being admitted twice into the hospital I earned my second DUII which cost me my job and home. Now I reside in a homeless shelter waiting for my sentencing. I pray that these risks become more publicly known.

  3. carolyn Reply

    Son died 7 yrs after bypass. Had it 2007 died 2015. Fatty liver. Liver shot kidneys failed. Liver failed
    no lawyer will do a class action suit. We HAVE No recourse. HELP

  4. Diane Reply

    My story is a lot like yours Ruben. gastric bypass surgery 7 years ago, now a raging alcoholic. Detox, rehabs, lock down psych wards. Medications, AA, shots, pills, councilors, court, lost house, husband job…no recourse. Statute of limitations bull…It took time to become an alcoholic.

  5. Andrew Reply

    Bet on horseracing but never to detriment or out of control. Got surgery, three years later, filing for bankruptcy, put family in jeopardy. Banging my head as to why? How? Now I know. Huge, reputable hospital and doctor, not one mention of potential ‘addiction transfer’ pscyh approval through hospital too.

  6. betty Reply

    My husband stopped drinking alcohol right after his bypass. Two years later he started back six years later he by passes the coffee and goes straight for the vodka. He may eat half an egg an on strip of bacon for breakfast, an egg roll for lunch an a saucer of food for supper. It takes him about three hours to eat that. He can not eat any type of meat or fried foods.
    I think he is starving his self, and he is an alcoholic. Is there anything that can be done.

  7. Michelle Reply

    Same story… different name. I had gastric bypass surgery about seven years ago. Prior to the surgery I had a very promising and fulfilling career as a Registered Nurse. I was not a drinker before the surgery, but afterwards I became a raging DRUNK…NO CAREER…NO LIFE!!!

  8. Tamara Reply

    This is incredibly interesting. This is a huge issue and It needs to be addressed. I’m the 2nd of 15 friends that all have had bypass or the sleeve and All of us have issues with alcohol or drugs now. My Best friend and my lives have been greatly affected since surgery. I have read many articles recently and I’m shocked at what a issue this is among post op patients. I was only asked if I drank once from my dr and once from my psychological evaluation no one ever warned me about any of this prior to surgery. Unfortunately my insurance didn’t require the 6 months of classes before I was approved for the procedure. Now I’ve been to rehab once and just really struggled with the label that I’m a alcoholic. Me, the perfect mommy NEVER! The program I attended was a joke and I just didn’t fit in. I kept telling the Drs that I had never drank prior to surgery and my issue was that my filter was gone! The only way I can explain it is before surgery if I had even a few drinks I’d spin out and throw up. In my case it would happen very quickly because I have Ménière’s disease and suffer from extreme vertigo, but now nothing. I can drink a bottle of vodka and I don’t spin and I don’t throw up. I do all the same things as the other comments posted and yes if someone, anyone would have warned me or educated me about this I would have done things way different. I have and do keep saying something’s wrong my desire to consume alcohol is like nothing I’ve ever experienced in my life. Why don’t we get sick? Why don’t we spin? The lack of required education prior to surgery is something that must change immediately! If it’s not lives will continue to be lost and it will not just be the patients it will be innocent bystanders. I have passed out at the wheel from one glass of champagne. What these Drs need to understand is we black out so fast we have no idea what we’re doing. When I state black out we’re wide awake and we have no idea we’re getting behind the wheel, we have zero idea about anything we’re doing. When we pass out we just wake up some where, we have no idea even how we got there. It’s like we mentally disappear AWAKE and that happens from one glass of wine. There is something wrong very wrong and addiction transfer is just a excuse. Something happens something changes and they need to figure it out! I would have NEVER had this surgery if I New that there was a slight possibility that I’d be where I am today. Education is golden and the opinions of these Drs are opinions they need to ask the patients and quit trying to cover up the serious risks that the surgery poses. I have one question to the entire medical community and that is WHY CAN WE CONSUME A ENTIRE BOTTLE OF VODKA AND NOT GET SICK OR SPIN? Weird very weird!

  9. Patricia Reply

    Ever since my surgery in 2008 i have struggled with multiple addictions from stealing, drug and alcohol abuse. My entire personality changed.

  10. Ronald Reply

    February 10, 2008 had Ruex.en-y surgery. 2 years following I developed a drinking dependency where there was non prior. Had a thriving business, home and beautiful family. I lost all after several attempts at recovering in detox and aftercare by way of iop and sober living. I’m sober currently in a sober house near Boston. They never educated us on substance abuse other than there was a small risk of transferable addiction. The psychological evaluation was insufficient after reading several studies by various doctor from Harvard to Stamford University. After many trips to the ER, detoxes, mental wards, and visits with a shrink everything points to the bypass as the culprit here. The alcohol abuse is not psychological but physiological due to the traumatic change to the anatomy. There are alcohol receptors in the stomach and liver that are missed due bypassing the small intestine losing the opportunity to absorb and metabolize alcohol as others that did not have the procedure. The people who caused my challenges which go beyond alcohol need to held accountable. People need to be properly informed so they can make an educated decision about the rest of their lives.

  11. Rudy Reply

    It’s been at least 5yrs or more since my fast by,l was in hosp,2days and1day in I.C.U. For one day.?They never said anything to me? All l could remember was wakeing up to two nurses one on each arm holding me up walking dragging me down the hall after surgery,I was out on my feet when l came too feeling sick as hell in a lot of pain saying to them what are you doing to me leave me alone put me back in bead i felt like my body was in rejection,shock even,!? I remember thinken to my self,your gonna die tonight.? And l remember wakeing up to a nurse praying next to me,she obviously was thinken the same,saying to me with a big smile and a sigh off Releef Rudy I pray for you last night, I felt calm worn out and confused.?I remember two of the tree days ? After a couple weeks ,I could eat solids,just a couple bites, feeling nausea and dehidreded all the time and week,never really hungry. I was around 290 ortho ped doc suggested l drop 100 or so lbs,befor knee replacement,I was very comf with my wt at timel happy healthy,two French frys for exsample an one drink or swallo,no more,cause it would come up Malken
    me feel naushes and drowsy an lathargic, like when you. Over eat on thanks giveing ,stuffed,wanting just to lay down and sleep even.? Been that way ever since,it’s been 5yrs 1st yr went down to 140lbs started loosing my hair and teeth and my eye site and my looks.? All sucked up looking frail,Sick,cheek bones ,an temples poking out,eye sockets sunk in,people would ask if I was sick at times imbarising me,giveing me angsiaties when I eat out or at fam,or my food is always cold,haveing to reheat 2-3 times , I always ask for small plate,like mayonase lid small,please,,most of time takeing it with me,or giveing it away to ?
    People never say Rudy you lost weight, you look great! Instead they say are you sick,,! I say no gastric bypass, I have trouble swollwing,needed surgery on my assophagus.?they had to use a wire to open it for camara to explore,!?,they said lt was 4 centermeeters and should be around 20 cen, or so? That they can only do 10 at a time,so it won’t tear?and I would have to return for 10 more, great! I said,and after a few days,I was starving! Bought a super barito,took two bites and,!? Felt like,OK,one more bite,and drank half a cup of orchata and begone feeling like what? Had to go back one more time! It’s been a year since,and guess what? I resently on 8-19-20 had my knee replacement done,and guess what ?long story short? After I I heal some,I’m haveing stomach aces burning even,blood in my stool again I have anemia now,high blood pressure,haveing to see a carteolagest,last time I had a low blood count,needing blood transfusion, and fixing to have schedule with gastroalagest,!? My forth surgery to open up my assaphaguess ! Here I go again,feeling sick and week,no energy etc,etc,etc!.. your patsy!.. Rudy.V.

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