Bariatric surgery associated with increased risk of alcohol abuse, finds study

Bariatric surgery associated with increased risk of alcohol abuse, finds study

In recent times, weight loss surgeries have become the most common method of losing weight in people struggling with obesity. Also known as Roux-en-Y gastric bypass surgery, or bariatric surgery, the procedure also helps extremely obese people to manage comorbid conditions like diabetes or hypertension. But going under the knife may not be the best option for those who are vulnerable to substance abuse. Apparently, the risk of alcohol abuse is higher for patients who undergo bariatric surgery.

A study, published in Current Psychiatry in January 2017 highlighted that individuals who had undergone a weight loss surgery were at a high risk of developing maladaptive alcohol use. While the prevalence of high-risk or hazardous drinking post weight loss surgery was estimated at 4-28 percent, a significant 10 percent of the study participants were found to meet the criteria for alcohol use disorders (AUDs).

According to DSM-IV-TR5, an AUD can be diagnosed by looking at the following symptoms:

  • A maladaptive pattern of drinking, leading to clinically significant impairment or distress
  • Recurrent use of alcohol resulting in a failure to fulfill major responsibilities at work, school or home (for example, repeated absence or poor work performance due to alcohol use; alcohol-related suspensions or expulsions from school and neglect of children or household)
  • Recurrent alcohol use in situations in which it is physically hazardous (for example, while driving an automobile or operating a machine)
  • Recurrent alcohol-related legal problems
  • Continued alcohol use despite having persistent or recurrent social or interpersonal problems caused or exacerbated by the effects of alcohol

Identifying causes for AUD after bariatric surgery

As per the findings of the study, there was minimal aberrant behavior regarding alcohol abuse in the first year, however, the risk increased significantly in the consecutive years, with the third year being identified as the riskiest. Evidently, most people are careful in the first few months after surgery, but as time elapses, their focus on nutritious diet gets diverted, with some individuals taking to alcohol as a means to calm down their nerves post the surgical procedure. Since the tolerance level for alcohol is relatively low in people who have recently undergone a surgery, a person feels rewarded immediately just after a drink, resulting in an increased frequency of alcohol consumption in due course.

The study found that individuals with an AUD at the time of the weight loss surgery tend to continue with their maladaptive behavior even after the surgery. Surprisingly, many people who had developed alcohol abuse disorder post-surgery had no alcohol issues before going under the knife. Probably, it is the combination of factors such as social isolation, depression and anxiety, related to the surgery, which urge one to seek refuge in alcohol. Although weight loss surgeries have certain benefits, especially for those with extremely high BMI, most patients are ill equipped to deal with the extreme lifestyle changes occurring after the surgery. This could eventually result in alcohol abuse.

Need for specialized programs to deal with addictions after surgery

Pre-surgical screening is one way to preempt future addictions in patients who need to undergo bariatric or gastric bypass surgeries. Also, weight loss surgeries require substantial lifestyle changes and giving up alcohol is one of the prerequisites for maintaining adequate weight for the rest of the life. Seeking medical help can be extremely beneficial in case one has symptoms such as depression and anxiety, which are natural triggers for alcohol and substance abuse. Therefore, it is essential to undergo a comprehensive treatment program to ensure recovery from alcoholism.

If you or a loved one is addicted to alcohol, connect with the Alcohol Addiction Helpline of California to access the best alcohol addiction treatment facilities in California. Call us at our 24/7 helpline number 855-980-1715 or chat online to get information on the best alcohol rehab centers in California.

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