The Dangers of Gastric Bypass Surgery and Alcoholism

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The Dangers of Gastric Bypass Surgery and Alcoholism

A new study suggests that one in five patients who undergo gastric bypass develop a drinking problem.

Patients who have gastric bypass surgery- where the size of the stomach is reduced – are twice as likely to abuse alcohol compared to those who opt for a gastric band.

Over 20 percent of patients develop symptoms of alcohol abuse within five years of having a bypass, compared to only 11.3 percent who get the gastric band, the study shows.

The study does not speculate, however, on why this may occur. Previous research demonstrated that gastric bypass surgery could cause a higher elevation of alcohol in the bloodstream than the weight-loss bands, which results in alcohol becoming more addictive.

In 2013, there were approximately 179,000 weight-loss surgeries performed in the US, 34 percent having gastric bypass and 14 percent getting lap band surgery.

Researchers from the University of Pittsburgh then followed over 2,000 patients who participated in a weight-loss surgery study that began in 2006.

Of the participants, 1,481 received a gastric bypass, while the other 522 patients were fitted with a band, the less popular method, as it doesn’t induce the same degree of weight loss.

The findings showed that both groups had increased their alcohol consumption over the next seven-year period.

However, only those who chose the Gastric Bypass saw a significant increase in alcoholism, as measured by the Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test.

The journal of Surgery for Obesity and Related Diseases published the results which revealed that 20.8 percent of participants had developed symptoms of alcoholism within five years of having gastric bypass surgery.

Contrast that with only 11.3 percent of patients who chose gastric banding reported alcohol abuse symptoms.

The report showed that young males, with less of a social support system, further increased the risk of developing alcohol problems.

The study could not explain why gastric bypass increased, the risk of alcohol abuse.

One explanation that may be attributed to the link is the “shifting addiction theory.”

This occurs when the person’s impulse to eat significant amounts of food is taken away; the person then shifts their addiction to another substance.

Doctors say this theory is inaccurate and alcohol dependency is more likely down to the actual physical effects of the stomach size since it is now smaller.

Dr. Mitchell Roslin, a bariatric surgeon at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City, said: “A gastric bypass patient has a small pouch [for a stomach] so alcohol goes straight into the intestine and is absorbed rapidly.”

“When it is absorbed rapidly, there is a high peak and rapid fall, and the higher absorption rate makes alcohol more addictive.”

Previous studies indicate that, compared with the lap band, gastric bypass is associated with a higher and quicker elevation of alcohol in the blood.