Gastric Bypass & Alcohol Abuse

Researchers from the University at Buffalo Research Institute on Addictions in collaboration with the Penn State College of Medicine are investigating why a significant percentage of people who opt for a gastric bypass procedure for weight loss develop alcohol abuse problems.

The researchers plan to focus their study on the possible neurological causes for the increased vunerability for alcohol use disorders in this group of people.Senior research scientist; Dr Panayotis K Thanos stated: “Recent findings have shown the risk of developing an alcohol use disorder following gastric bypass surgery was nearly double the risk in the general population. Although other studies have shown the risk to be not quite that high, the numbers all point to the need for greater research in this area.”

Dr Thanos added; “Most alcohol use disorders manifest during a person’s teens or 20’s. However, people who have a gastric bypass tend to be older, so the alcohol abuse arises at a much later onset date than in the general population.” So this likelihood of developing alcohol problems is unusual because of the older age of the patients.

Results of the study could prove valuable to clinicians when they formulate personalised post operative treatment plans for patients who may already have an increased risk of alcohol use disorders, in order to help prevent develoment of the addiction.

Dr Thanos concluded; “We will explore whether this outcome is due to changes in the brain’s dopamine system that are a unique result of the gastric bypass surgery, and independent of weight loss or post surgical change of diet.  Such a change in the dopamine system may increase preference for an intake of alcohol based on its increased rewarding effects in the brain. This, in turn, poses an increased risk for development of addiction.”

Reference: Bariatric News Issue 28