New studies suggest that bariatric patients in Colorado and elsewhere should be careful with their alcohol use because they might be at higher risk for alcoholism as a result of the surgery. Research published in May 2017 showed that patients who had gastric bypass surgery were about twice as likely to develop problems with alcohol use than those who had gastric banding, another type of surgery.
More than one in five of the 2,000 study participants who had gastric bypass surgery abused alcohol or developed alcoholism, while 11 percent of those with gastric banding did so. Researchers are now doing further research to discover why there is an increase in alcohol abuse after the surgery.
It has been long known that alcohol absorbs into the body faster and takes longer to be eliminated after gastric bypass surgery because of the way food and drink bypass the stomach. The faster absorption and slower elimination of alcohol not only mean that intoxication will happen faster with less alcohol consumption, but that the high experienced while drinking will be more intense and long-lasting. This can make drinking more pleasurable and attractive.
Another theory about why the risk of alcohol abuse rises after gastric bypass surgery is called addiction transfer. Since those who have gastric bypass surgery are overweight, the theory goes, they are more likely to have addictive behaviors toward food, which transfer to something else after the surgery — like alcohol, for example.
Addiction transfer could be a factor in some cases of alcohol abuse after gastric bypass surgery, but many researchers doubt this as an explanation for the increased incidence of alcohol use problems. Researchers say they would expect to see increases in other kinds of addictions like gambling or drugs along with alcoholism if addiction transfer theory were valid.
A Warning About Gastric Bypass
Now that the medical community is learning about the increased risks of alcohol abuse after gastric bypass surgery, it’s time to start warning people about these risks, so they are informed before surgery. Patients deserve full disclosure of these and other risks of gastric bypass surgery.
An increased risk for alcohol problems may in some cases be the lesser of evils when obesity has caused serious health consequences like type 2 diabetes, stroke, or heart disease. Some people may still decide that the benefits of gastric bypass surgery — such as the fact that it often reverses type 2 diabetes and improves cardiovascular health — outweigh the risks that include possible alcohol problems in the future.
If you have developed a problem with drinking too much after having gastric bypass, The Recovery Village at Palmer Lake is a Colorado alcohol rehab that wants to help you overcome this addiction. Contact us for more information.