For those suffering from morbid obesity, bariatric surgery can be a life-saving decision. However, there are multiple studies that have associated gastric bypass and alcohol use disorder (AUD). The psychological and physiological changes that occur post-operation, particularly with gastric bypass surgery, have potential risks and implications with alcohol that need to be addressed. One study found that one in five participants that underwent bariatric surgery reached a peak BAC level within two minutes. This is cause for concern and can directly correlate to Alcohol Use Disorder.
If you or a loved one are suffering from alcohol abuse, our alcohol rehab in Tampa can help. With three immersive programs, we help individuals create lasting change while still fulfilling work and family obligations. Call us now at (813) 733-8774 or verify your insurance today!
What is Gastric Bypass Surgery?
Gastric bypass surgery, or Roux-en-Y gastric bypass, is a common and effective type of weight loss surgery. The procedure involves creating a small pouch from the stomach and connecting it directly to the small intestine, bypassing a large portion of the stomach and a segment of the small intestine. This alteration results in patients feeling full faster, thus reducing the amount of food they can consume, and the body absorbing fewer calories from the food that is consumed.
While gastric bypass surgery can be an excellent tool for achieving substantial and sustained weight loss, it’s not without its challenges. Post-operative patients must adhere to a new dietary regimen and make significant lifestyle adjustments. Moreover, they must grapple with the metabolic and physiological changes, such as a heightened sensitivity to alcohol, which can lead to addiction problems and alcohol use disorder (AUD).
How Common Is Alcohol Use Disorder After Gastric Bypass Surgery?
Research into the prevalence of alcoholism post-gastric bypass surgery has produced some worrying results. Studies suggest that the rate of alcohol abuse can double within two years of surgery. According to one study in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), up to 21% of gastric bypass patients reported symptoms of alcohol use disorder within five years of surgery.
These alarming figures underscore the need for comprehensive pre- and post-operative care, including psychological assessments and counseling to help patients understand and manage the potential risks.
Why Do People Develop Drinking Problems After Having Gastric Bypass?
Developing a drinking problem after gastric bypass surgery can be attributed to several physiological, psychological, and social factors.
- Physiological Changes: After gastric bypass surgery, the way the body handles alcohol changes significantly. The surgery alters the gastrointestinal tract, leading to rapid absorption of alcohol, which means individuals can become intoxicated much quicker and from smaller amounts of alcohol than before. This rapid onset of the effects of alcohol can be reinforced, leading to increased alcohol consumption.
- Addiction Transfer: This phenomenon occurs when a person substitutes one addiction for another. If someone used food as a coping mechanism prior to surgery, they may seek a new source of comfort post-surgery when overeating is no longer an option. Unfortunately, alcohol can become this new source, leading to increased consumption and potential alcohol abuse.
- Psychological Factors: The drastic changes in body weight and image after surgery can bring about intense emotions and stress. Some individuals may not be fully prepared for these changes and may turn to alcohol as a way to cope with feelings of anxiety, depression, or insecurity.
- Social Factors: After the surgery, patients often experience changes in their social interactions and relationships. As they lose weight and gain more confidence, they may find themselves in more social situations where alcohol is present, increasing the likelihood of consuming more alcohol.
Preventative measures like pre-operative psychological evaluation, education about the risks of alcohol use post-surgery, and ongoing post-operative psychological support can be crucial in mitigating the risk of developing alcohol-related problems after gastric bypass surgery.
Risk Factors for Alcohol Use Disorder After Surgery
Alcohol use disorder (AUD) after bariatric surgery, including gastric bypass, is a significant concern. While it’s not entirely clear why some people develop this disorder and others do not, certain risk factors have been identified that may make an individual more prone to AUD after surgery:
- History of Substance Abuse: Those with a history of substance use disorder, including alcohol abuse, are at a higher risk of developing AUD after bariatric surgery. The underlying addictive behaviors could transfer to alcohol when food can no longer serve as a coping mechanism.
- Mental Health Disorders: Patients with existing mental health issues, such as depression, anxiety, or bipolar disorder, are at a higher risk of AUD. The emotional and psychological stress associated with drastic body changes after surgery can exacerbate these conditions, leading to alcohol as a form of self-medication.
- Younger Age: Studies suggest that younger patients are more prone to postoperative AUD. This could be due to a variety of factors, including social pressure, lifestyle habits, and a lower perception of personal risk.
- Smoking: Smokers are more likely to develop AUD after bariatric surgery. This correlation may stem from the general association between smoking and substance abuse, as well as similar risk behaviors and impulse control issues.
- Preoperative Drinking Habits: Patients who regularly consumed alcohol before surgery, especially those who engaged in binge drinking, have a higher likelihood of developing AUD after surgery.
- “Addiction Transfer” Phenomenon: As mentioned, patients may substitute their addiction to food with alcohol after surgery. This is because the surgery-induced restrictions on food intake can no longer provide the same comfort or reward that food once did, leading individuals to seek these feelings from alcohol.
Understanding these risk factors can help healthcare providers identify patients who may be at high risk for developing AUD after bariatric surgery. This could lead to early interventions, such as counseling or additional post-operative support, to reduce the risk of AUD.
Finding Treatment For Alcohol After Surgery
Finding treatment for Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD) requires understanding the different levels of care available and choosing the one that suits an individual’s specific needs and circumstances. It’s important to remember that this is a process, and individuals may transition between different levels of care as their recovery progresses.
One option is detox, often the first step in treating AUD. Detox is generally carried out in an inpatient setting, where healthcare professionals monitor the patient 24/7 to manage withdrawal symptoms and ensure safety. Depending on the severity of AUD, detoxification may involve the use of medications to alleviate withdrawal symptoms and reduce cravings.
Following detoxification, outpatient treatment may be appropriate for individuals with mild to moderate AUD. This type of treatment allows individuals to continue living at home and maintaining work or school commitments while attending scheduled treatment sessions, which may include individual counseling, group therapy, medication management, and education about alcoholism and recovery.
Intensive outpatient programs (IOPs) or partial hospitalization programs (PHPs) are a step up from traditional outpatient services. These programs typically involve several hours of therapy per day, several days per week, while still allowing individuals to live at home. Our Florida long-term rehab may also be a viable option for those who cannot quit drinking.
Find Alcohol Rehab in Tampa Today!
Don’t let Alcohol Use Disorder hold you back any longer. If you’re in the Tampa Bay area and are ready to reclaim control over your life, now is the time to take action. As a JCAHO accredited facility, Tampa Bay Recovery Center is the place to begin your journey to sobriety. Connect with us and take the first step towards a brighter, healthier future. You’re not alone in this battle; help is just a call or click away. Act now – because every moment is precious in your journey to recovery. It’s never too late to start anew.