If you have had gastric bypass surgery, keep an eye out for any changes in how and when you drink.
The procedure can increase the risk of alcohol use disorder.
And that can happen even years after surgery, according to new research published this spring in an online issue of the journal of the American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery (ASMBS).
One in 5 people who’ve had bypass surgery met the study definition for the disorder at some point within five years of their surgery, even though they hadn’t had a problem in the year before their procedure.
What researchers discovered
The research team was led by Wendy King, associate professor of epidemiology at the University of Pittsburgh.
They assessed nearly 1,500 people who’d had bypass surgery, one, two, three, four, five, and seven years after the procedure.
By the second year, “We found an increase in drinking frequency and problems. There were people affected for the first time each year.”
The team used a standard 10-item test to ask people about their drinking and its consequences in the previous year.
If you got a high score or said that you had experienced any of the classic symptoms of the condition — like needing a drink in the morning to get going, or injuring someone while inebriated — you met the definition of alcohol use disorder.
Not only were people who’d had bypass surgery more likely to develop drinking problems, but their drinking became more frequent over the years.
Some 16 percent of people said they were drinking at least twice a week by the last year of the research assessment, compared with around 6 percent pre-surgery.
Drinking twice a week may not sound serious, but doctors advise weight loss patients to stay away from liquid calories. After weight loss surgery, patients take in dramatically fewer calories. The alcohol may affect weight and cause other problems, King said.
Given the results, people who’ve had bypass surgery might want to stay away from alcohol altogether, King suggested.
“Some had symptoms even if they drank less than twice a week. Maybe you don’t drink for a month, but when you do one night you can’t stop,” King said.