Bariatric Surgery and Alcoholism

By James Madeiros


No one wants to hear that choices for life improvement can come with negative consequences, but it’s often hard to predict how changing one’s body will change that body’s future.

A new study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association links bariatric surgery with an increased risk of alcohol use disorders. A breakdown of the numbers shows that alcohol abuse climbs to 9.6% after surgery from a level of 7.6% before surgery. When the data are combined with the number of people who have the procedure in the U.S. it means an average of 2,000 people may develop disorders every year.

The scientists who conducted the study are not ready to give a reason for this trend, but others who have researched the effects of gastric bypass point to one obvious possibility: the various procedures involved shorten the intestine and/or reduce the size of the stomach, which increases the absorption rate of alcohol and changes how people respond to it. Such a rapid change could also arguably alter behavior.

This conclusion discounts another theory psychiatrists describe as “addiction transfer” – where a person swaps one addiction for another one. Knowing that it is one cause over another could lead to a better understanding of the problem, which could in turn lead to better chances of reducing its prevalence.

The research has the potential to help inform people who are considering the surgery if health professionals can come to a consensus on how to present the information to the public. Some patients who have undergone the procedure and have now succumbed to addiction claim they were not warned of the issue and that if they knew they were choosing between obesity and the possibility of alcoholism it would have impacted their decisions.


Legal Stuff: Of course, I should remind everyone that our blog entries are for your information only and are not intended as medical advice. If you’re going to drink, do it legally and responsibly; don’t be stupid =).

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