Health & Wellness Substance Abuse

Weight Loss Surgery Tied to Increased Use of Alcohol or Drugs

A new study found association between weight loss surgery and increased use of alcohol or drugs. It said those who underwent gastric bypass were at greater risk of alcohol use after the procedure.

The researchers distributed questionnaires to 132 women and 23 men who had undergone one of two commonly performed types of weight-loss surgery. They found that use of illegal substances increased at the time of surgery, with additional increases at one, three, six, and twenty-four months after the procedure, the reports.

However, one of the study authors, Dr. Alexis Conason who is a researcher at the New York Obesity Nutrition Research Center in New York City, said their finding does not suggest that “everybody who undergoes gastric bypass will become an alcoholic.” The study, after all, investigated increased use of alcohol, drugs or cigarettes, not abuse per se.

“Be aware of symptoms of substance abuse if you have undergone bariatric surgery, including changes in your relationship with drugs and alcohol,” Dr. Conason added. “I don’t think this study should be a deterrent for people seeking surgery. The key thing is to monitor following surgery and inform patients of the risks and signs and symptoms of substance abuse before their surgery.”

Meanwhile, some experts theorize that increases in drinking or drug-taking after weight-loss surgery is a result of a phenomenon called addiction swapping, whereby, alcohol or drugs replace the food addiction because a person can no longer eat as much. Another theory cited is that the person can become intoxicated more quickly with less alcohol. In addition, changes in the brain after a weight loss procedure may also be another factor.

The findings were published online on Oct. 15 in the journal Archives of Surgery.

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