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Study Finds Risks of Substance Abuse After Weight-Loss Surgery

Patients turn to alcohol, drugs and tobacco as addictive personality resurfaces

Weight loss surgery can definitely take the weight off but a new study finds that patients who have the surgery are at risk of turning to drugs, alcohol and tobacco to satisfy their urges.

In particular, the study found that patients who undergo laparoscopic Roux-en-Y gastric bypass surgery appear to be at increased risk for alcohol use following surgery, according to a report published Online First by Archives of Surgery, a JAMA Network publication.

“Studies have shown that drugs, alcohol, and food trigger similar responses in the brain and that bariatric surgery candidates whose condition has been diagnosed as binge-eating disorder (BED) display addictive personalities similar to individuals addicted to substances,” the authors write. “Therefore, alcohol and drugs (including nicotine) are likely to substitute for overeating following WLS [weight loss surgery.]”

Alexis Conason, Psy.D., of New York Obesity Nutrition Research Center  and colleagues studied questionnaire responses from 155 patients (132 women) who underwent weight loss surgery.

Overall, the authors found that patients reported an immediate decrease in how often they abused substances after surgery but by 24 months after surgery, they reported a significant increase in their use of drugs, alcohol and tobacco.

Additionally, patients who underwent laparoscopic Roux-en-Y gastric bypass surgery (LRYGB) reported a significant increase in the frequency of alcohol use from the time before surgery to 24 months after surgery. 

“Based on the present study, undergoing RYGB surgery appears to increase the risk for alcohol use following WLS,” the authors conclude. “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.”

Story provided by ConsumerAffairs.
Consumer Affairs


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