Patients who have had bariatric weight loss surgery could be at an elevated risk of substance use (alcohol, cigarette smoking, drug use) following surgery, especially those who underwent laparoscopic Roux-en-Y gastric bypass surgery, who seemed to be at a higher risk for alcohol use after surgery.

This report, published in Archives of Surgery, describes previous studies that relates bariatric weight loss surgery candidates to individuals addicted to other substances such as nicotine and alcohol. These candidates suffer from binge-eating disorder and display addictive personalities, therefore after their weight loss surgery (WLS), they may replace overeating with a different substance. Patients have been advised to explore these effects before undergoing surgery

Alexis Conason, Psy.D., of New York Obesity Nutrition Research Center, and colleagues, examined survey responses from 155 patients (132 women) who underwent weight loss surgery, and signed up after an informative session at a bariatric surgery center.

The participants underwent laparoscopic Roux-en-Y gastric bypass surgery (100) or laparoscopic gastric band surgery (55). All patients answered questionnaires to evaluate eating behaviors and substance use before their operation, and at one, three, six, twelve, and 24 months following surgery.

Patients documented noteworthy increases in the amount of substance use (a combination of drug use, alcohol use, and cigarette smoking) 24 months after surgery. Specifically, the authors saw that participants reported a meaningful increase in the prevalence of substance use from the time of the surgery to 24 months after surgery. Also seen was significant increases from one, three, and six months to 24 months following their operation.

Furthermore, those who had laparoscopic Roux-en-Y gastric bypass surgery (LRYGB) reported a meaningful jump in the frequency of alcohol use from the period before surgery to 24 months afterwards.

The authors concluded:

“Based on the present study, undergoing RYGB surgery appears to increase the risk for alcohol use following WLS. Risks and benefits should be weighted when recommending LRYGB surgery to patients who may be at increased risk of developing problems with alcohol after WLS, such as those with a personal or family history of alcohol abuse or dependence.”

Written by Kelly Fitzgerald