Weight loss surgery may increase risk of alcohol problems, finds study

Alcohol addiction is one of the most common forms of substance use disorders prevalent in the United States today. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) estimated that in 2015, nearly one in two individuals were current binge drinkers in the past month. Alcohol use may be triggered by social and environmental circumstances, family history, traumatic brain injuries and peer pressure among other significant factors.

A recent study, published online, in the August 2017 issue of Surgery for Obesity and Related Diseases, has linked weight -loss surgery to increased risk of alcohol-related problems. The study suggested that one in five patients who underwent bariatric surgery had higher risk of developing problems with alcohol. However, symptoms may take years to appear in some cases.

Bariatric surgery is one of the few weight loss treatments that include surgical procedure on the stomach or intestines. The study highlighted that people who underwent bariatric surgery needed a long-term clinical follow-up to diagnose the likelihood of alcohol use disorders (AUD) including abuse and dependence. In the light of the findings that reported symptoms of AUD in 20.8 percent participants within five years of Roux-en-Y gastric bypass (RYGB), the follow-up may be helpful in monitoring and, if required, treating these alcohol-related problems.

Wendy C. King, associate professor of epidemiology at the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health, said “We knew there was an increase in the number of people experiencing problems with alcohol within the first two years of surgery, but we didn’t expect the number of affected patients to continue to grow throughout seven years of follow-up.” King and her team studied more than 2,000 patients who participated in Longitudinal Assessment of Bariatric Surgery-2 (LABS-2), a prospective observational study of patients undergoing weight-loss surgery at an American hospital. The study was funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

RYGB is a surgical weight loss procedure, which is used to reduce the size of the stomach significantly while changing connections with the small intestine. It is the most popular procedure, which was received by 1,481 participants. Of the remaining participants, 522 people underwent laparoscopic adjustable gastric banding, a less invasive procedure in which a surgeon puts an adjustable band around the patient’s stomach, thereby decreasing the amount of food the stomach can hold.

Researchers monitored the alcohol consumption of both the groups over seven years, which increased with time. However, only those people who underwent RYGB showed an increase in the prevalence of AUD symptoms. The researchers also revealed that among patients who did not have alcohol problems before the surgery, RYGB patients were two times more likely to develop alcohol problems over the next seven years than people who underwent gastric banding.

The American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery says that it is important for the patients to undergo screening for AUD before surgery. It would help them assess their risk of developing the disorder after the procedure. The Society advised high-risk groups to stop alcohol consumption post-surgery to minimize the risk of alcohol-related problems.

Prior animal studies suggest that RYGB may induce alcohol reward sensitivity by modifying the genetic expression and the hormone system that affects brain areas associated with reward. In addition to RYGB, different personal characteristics are also likely to elevate the risk for developing problems, such as limited social support system, being male and younger, divorce, and increased alcohol consumption to at least twice a week among others.

Getting help for alcohol addiction

Some people are too late to react to the problems associated with alcohol as they fail to acknowledge alcohol addiction as a medical condition. If alcohol starts to interfere with one’s quality of life, and social and personal relationship, it may be an indication of a disorder. However, good news is that AUD is treatable with timely intervention.

If you know anyone in need of help for alcohol-related problems, you can contact the experts at Alcohol Addiction Get Help Helpline for credible information on treatment alternatives and some of the best alcohol addiction treatment centers. Chat online or call our 24/7 helpline 866-281-3014 for prompt assistance.