My Bariatric Life: Are You at Risk for Alcohol Abuse After Weight-Loss Surgery?

My Bariatric Life Health Guide
  • Swedish researchers have discovered that people who have gastric bypass surgery are twice as likely to receive inpatient treatment for alcohol abuse than those who have had Lap-Band surgery.

    Right about now you might be saying, "Great. Thanks a lot Swedish researchers." One problem out through the exit and another one in through the entrance. Not really. This is a phenomenon that seems to accompany the territory of a specific weight loss surgery and, if you desire the improved health and life conditions that partner gastric bypass surgery, it is a phenomenon you need to prepare for.


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    Beneath every layer is yet another layer. Challenges can be abundant, be they the challanges of compromised health and self-esteem due to the burden of carrying excess weight or the challenges of substance abuse or the challanges of the workplace or relationships or parenting or...well, I suppose you get the point. It's always going to be something. As a once upon a time catcher for the New York Yankees once said, "It ain't over 'til it's over."  Not exactly Socrates, but not bad either. And in the instance of elective surgery, you at least get to pick your battles.

    It was known prior to the study that gastric bypass surgery allowed the body to absorb alcohol more quickly. As for me, I found this out the hard way early after my surgery by having a few drinks at my company Christmas party and getting way too tipsy from them, to put it politely. This increased absorption does not constitute problem drinking or alcohol abuse or alcohol dependence. It means that alcohol is absorbed more quickly and that's about it. Does this provide a previously nonexistent shortcut to intoxication? It surely does; this I know from experience! 


    With Lap-Band surgery, food still passes through the entire stomach. Not so with gastric bypass surgery. Alcohol is partially broken down by enzymes in the stomach. After bypass surgery, this enzyme breakdown no longer occurs and alcohol reaches the intestines mostly intact. The interior surface of the intestines absorb alcohol quite effectively, producing  high concentrations in the bloodstream at a faster pace.


    But, again, alcohol entering the bloodstream via high-speed biologic rail does not constitute problem drinking or alcohol abuse or alcohol dependence. On the other hand, consuming alcohol in spite of any problems that may accompany that consumption will produce "train wrecks" in your personal and professional with remarkable efficiency. Knowingly promoting damage despite the inevitable negative consequences is the problem here. If the substance was not ingested there would be no negative consequences caused by it's effect.

    For the purpose of this sharepost, I consulted a certified drug and alcohol counselor for his expert perspective on what exactly constitutes problem drinking. Should you find yourself having three drinks per day at least four times per week or having five or more drinks at least twice per month, the term "problem drinker" might be applicable. A professional opinion regarding your habits could be in order. And that's okay. If a problem is brewing, you can position yourself for early intervention as opposed to finding yourself neck-deep in a very unpleasant position. It is best to seek help long before neck-deep becomes in-over-your-head.


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    Discovering that weight management problems are rooted alongside some other thing is not unusual. Weight-loss surgery patients have an above average history of alcoholism, depression, attempted suicide, and psychosis. Again, do not tap the panic button. No problem can be successfully addressed without knowledge of what the problem is.


    Now that the mask is pulled from issues, there are many capable therapists who can help provide success. Proceed with courage and determination. After all, the most difficult choice of beginning at all has been made from some already existing pool of courage and determination. Congratulations to you all.


    Up next: Simple Solutions for Obesity Surgery Patients Faced with Alcohol Abuse or Dependence


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    My Story...

    You can read about my decision to have weight loss surgery back in 2003 and my journey to maintain a lifetime of obesity disease management since that time. My wish is to help you on your own journey of lifetime obesity disease management with shareposts along the way to help you navigate that journey successfully.


Published On: December 16, 2011