Patients who have recently undergone gastric bypass surgery may be at an increased risk for substance abuse and alcohol addiction, according to the findings of new research.
In a study published online this month by the Archives of Surgery, researchers detail a survey of 155 bariatric surgery patients conducted at the New York Obesity Nutrition Research Center. The patients received either laparoscopic Roux-en-Y gastric bypass surgery or laparoscopic adjustable gastric band surgery.
Patients were given questionnaires to determine their behavior regarding eating and substance abuse before the surgery and then again at 1, 3, 6, 12, and 24 months after surgery. The survey found a 50 percent increase in the frequency of drug use, alcohol use, or cigarette smoking two years after the procedure.
In many cases, patients who consumed alcohol prior to the surgery consumed more following the weight-loss procedure. One in 25 patients used recreational drugs before surgery; yet, following the surgery one in eight reported using drugs two years later. In particular, patients who underwent gastric bypass surgery had a significant increase in alcohol use preoperative to two years after the surgery.
Researchers noted that the initial period following the surgery in all cases found a decline in use, which may point to surgery recovery period restrictions placed on patients following the procedures.
Many experts believe that people suffering from obesity tend to struggle with eating as a response to emotions. This may also explain why following surgery patients then substitute food with other substances like alcohol, drugs and cigarettes to respond to the same emotional cues.
The researchers stress that more research is needed in this area since the initial survey was based on such a small sample size. This study is the second within only four months to reach similar conclusions.
A study published in June by the Journal of the American Medical Association also found a link between bariatric surgery and an increase in alcohol use, reporting a sudden increase in alcohol abuse two years after patients underwent bariatric surgery.
Concerns over the safety of weight-loss surgeries have also surfaced over other potential complications of bariatric surgery, which studies have indicated may include malnutrition, vision problems, vitamin deficiencies and other serious complications.
More than 200,000 people underwent bariatric surgery in the United States in 2009, with gastric bypass being the most popular.