Does Gastric Bypass Cause Alcoholism?

Robert Gerchalk

Robert is our health care professional reviewer of this website. He worked for many years in mental health and substance abuse facilities in Florida, as well as in home health (medical and psychiatric), and took care of people with medical and addictions problems at The Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore. He has a nursing and business/technology degrees from The Johns Hopkins University.

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What Is a Gastric Bypass?

There is an ongoing debate surrounding the topic of gastric bypass surgeries and their effects on substance use disorders, such as alcoholism. Understanding the interwoven connection between these surgeries and alcohol use is essential to providing effective treatment methods to those struggling with physical and mental health disorders.

A gastric bypass helps a person lose weight by changing the way the stomach and small intestines absorb and process food. During the procedure, your surgeon will cut into your stomach, creating a tiny upper pouch that attaches directly to your small intestine. This reduces calorie intake and improves weight maintenance because it modifies the quantity of food the stomach can retain and how it absorbs nutrients. When combined with lifestyle changes, gastric bypass can help people with severe obesity lose a substantial amount of weight and lower their risk factors for obesity-related health problems, including type 2 diabetes and hypertension.

Physicians sometimes recommend gastric bypass surgery in the following scenarios:

  • Lack of success with other weight-loss methods
  • Treat metabolic syndrome (a cluster of conditions that increase the risk of heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes)
  • Improve quality of life for those struggling with severe obesity

Complications of Gastric Bypass

Although gastric bypass surgery can help you lose weight, it is not without risks. Possible complications during surgery include infection, bleeding, and reactions to anesthetics. Long-term problems include dietary deficits as a result of impaired vitamin absorption and requiring ongoing supplementation throughout your life. After surgery, you could experience the nauseous and debilitating symptoms of dumping syndrome as well.

Rapid weight reduction might cause gallstones to form. It’s possible that you’ll need surgery to fix any obstructions or strictures that form in your digestive system. Gastric bypass clients are also at risk of developing hernias and ulcers. 

Depression and other mental health issues related to body image are possible. While difficulties are conceivable, adequate medical monitoring, adherence to postoperative instructions, and frequent follow-ups can reduce such concerns.

How Does a Gastric Bypass Affect Alcohol Absorption?

Gastric bypass surgery greatly affects alcohol absorption because it alters the way the digestive system works. Due to the procedure’s effects on both stomach size and small intestine anatomy, alcohol makes a faster transition from the stomach to the intestines. This rapid transport causes an increased and instantaneous increase in a person’s blood alcohol content level because of faster absorption. 

Some people, after surgery, report feeling the effects of alcohol more quickly and with greater intensity than before. People who have had gastric bypass surgery should exercise care and moderation when it comes to alcohol use since changes in metabolism and stomach size may lead to a diminished tolerance for the drug.

Is It Dangerous to Mix Alcohol With Weight Reduction Surgery?

There are serious dangers associated with combining alcohol use with bariatric procedures like the gastric bypass. Alcohol has a more pronounced and faster effect, and this heightened sensitivity raises the danger of alcohol-related problems, such as damage to the liver and brain fog. Alcohol use after surgery can also hinder recovery by preventing the absorption of nutrients. Individuals who have had bariatric surgery should always drink alcohol with prudence, in accordance with medical standards, and only after consulting with a healthcare practitioner.

Can a Gastric Bypass Surgery Lead to Alcoholism?

It’s very important to understand how gastric bypass surgery can lead to alcoholism. When people lose a lot of weight without addressing the reasons for their obesity, which may include an addiction to food, there is an increased risk of swapping the addiction for something else, like alcohol. 

What You Need to Know

One study on weight loss procedures and alcoholism revealed some startling facts. Compared to research participants who had a sleeve gastrectomy, those who reported having a gastric bypass had a 98% higher risk of hospitalization due to alcohol-related issues. 

Top Warning Signs of Alcoholism

Recognizing the warning indications of alcoholism following gastric bypass surgery enables prompt intervention, increasing the likelihood that individuals will get the help they need. Having an understanding of the warning symptoms of alcoholism after gastric bypass is also important for addressing the potential psychological and social challenges as well as promoting a holistic approach to well-being after weight reduction surgery.

Increased Tolerance and Loss of Control

Due to the alterations in physiological processes after gastric bypass surgery, drinking might lead to a higher tolerance and a loss of control. The procedure lowers the size of the stomach and cuts off a section of the small intestine, both of which contribute to the quicker absorption of alcohol. Because of this enhanced absorption, people may need to drink more alcohol to have the same results. 

Furthermore, the rapid absorption of alcohol into the circulation increases the potency of the alcohol and hastens the onset of drunkenness. A smaller stomach might also make it harder for the body to process alcohol. Loss of self-control over alcohol use has the potential to undermine the health advantages of gastric bypass surgery and put people at increased risk for alcohol-related problems. For optimal health after surgery, it is crucial to keep tabs on alcohol use and be alert for warning signals of tolerance and loss of control.

Withdrawal Symptoms

Physical dependency on alcohol may develop after surgery due to a combination of factors, including the changed anatomy and fast alcohol absorption. Possible side effects include shakiness, sickness, nervousness, and irritability. These withdrawal symptoms indicate a degree of reliance that calls for prompt attention and treatment. To protect a person’s health and well-being after a gastric bypass, it is important to be watchful for possible alcohol-related concerns and to seek expert help for withdrawal symptoms.

Increased Time Spent Drinking

It’s possible that your preoccupation with alcohol will grow as your drinking increases. There is a correlation between this occurrence and alcohol’s reinforcing effects on the brain’s reward system. The more alcohol you drink, the more your brain will correlate it with positive feelings, leading to a greater need for it. 

The combination of an increased obsession and a rising tolerance is a warning sign of alcohol dependency. Loss of self-control over drinking habits is a common result of such compulsive thinking, highlighting the need for early diagnosis and treatment to prevent alcoholism and its negative health and social effects.

Neglecting Responsibilities

Ignoring obligations and drinking after gastric bypass surgery can go hand in hand. Surgery alters the body’s physiology, and when combined with the quick absorption of alcohol, it may cloud judgment and make it difficult to set priorities. Alcohol’s influence on cognitive function can lead to disregarding commitments at work, home, and in relationships. It’s possible that intoxication and the reinforcing effects of alcohol contribute to this negligence. 

After gastric bypass, it is essential to monitor for indicators of neglect, like job absences or strained relationships, so that the clients can get immediate intervention for both the physiological and behavioral components of their treatment.

Continued Use Despite Consequences

Those suffering from alcohol use disorder may continue drinking after gastric bypass, despite the detrimental effects it has on their health. After surgery, because the body’s anatomy is different and it absorbs alcohol faster, it makes it likely for individuals to experience negative consequences to their health, relationships, or workplace if they lose control of their drinking. This pattern of conduct is consistent with the diagnostic criteria for alcohol consumption disorder. Not only does continuing usage after gastric bypass surgery undermine the health advantages of the procedure, but it also offers significant hazards to the individual’s physical and emotional health.

Loss of Interest in Hobbies

A loss of interest in once-enjoyed activities is a telltale symptom of alcoholism after gastric bypass. Due to alcohol’s effect on the brain’s reward system and the physiological changes that occur after surgery, priorities may alter. As drinking becomes more of a priority, you may lose interest in other things you used to love. To intervene early and provide a holistic approach to post-operative treatment that addresses any alcohol-related issues, it is essential to recognize this loss of interest.

Social Isolation

Isolation from friends and family is a common symptom of alcoholism because of the destructive effects alcohol has on a person’s social life. Individuals may distance themselves from friends and family when their alcohol use rises. Isolation may also occur when an individual chooses alcohol use over connecting with others because of negative emotions such as remorse or shame. The negative effects of alcohol on behavior and decision-making can aggravate existing tensions and hasten the process of isolation.

Denial or Concealing Drinking Habits

Denying or trying to conceal post-surgery drinking behavior is a worrying indicator of underlying alcoholism after a gastric bypass. It’s a sign that you are losing control if you hide the fact that you have been drinking. This covert conduct generally originates from an increasing reliance on alcohol. Recognizing the need for concealment illustrates the need for intervention.

Getting the Help You Need

Failing to treat alcoholism following a gastric bypass compromises the health advantages of the surgery and can lead to severe nutritional inadequacies. Working with a trained addiction professional guarantees a holistic strategy that takes into account both the physical and mental changes that the person faces.

Benefits of Dual-Diagnosis Treatment

Dual-diagnosis treatment for alcoholism provides various advantages. It tackles both the physiological changes following surgery and the intricacies of alcohol usage at the same time. Dual-diagnosis therapy facilitates long-term sobriety by addressing both alcoholism and any underlying mental health conditions. In doing so, it optimizes post-operative well-being by taking into account the relationship between changed anatomy, quick alcohol absorption, and probable psychological problems. It gives people the tools they need to find their way through the complicated world of gastric bypass surgery and alcoholism, which improves their chances of making a full recovery.

Contact Alcohol Awareness

Are you struggling with alcoholism after having had a gastric bypass? If so, contact Alcohol Awareness. We partner with treatment providers across the nation that specialize in helping people with alcoholism and weight loss issues.