(PITTSBURGH) -- Having Roux-en-Y gastric bypass surgery, where the size of the stomach is reduced and the intestine is shortened, thus limiting how much a person can eat, can increase the risk of alcohol-use disorders, new research suggests.
The study, conducted by researchers at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, adds to mounting evidence of a link between having the popular gastric bypass surgery and the symptoms of alcohol-use disorders.
Before the surgery, the nearly 2,000 study participants completed a survey developed by the World Health Organization that is used to identify symptoms of alcohol abuse.
The patients then completed the survey one and two years after their weight-loss surgery. The study found that 7 percent of patients who had gastric bypass reported symptoms of alcohol use disorders prior to surgery. The second year after surgery, 10.7 percent of patients were reporting symptoms.
The findings were published Monday in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
"There have been previous studies that show there is a change in alcohol sensitivity in gastric bypass," said Wendy King, a research assistant professor in the department of epidemiology at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, and the study's lead author.
King's study is the first to show that with this increased sensitivity there is also an increased risk of alcohol use disorders (AUD), the term used to describe alcohol abuse and dependence.
Dr. Mitchell Roslin, a bariatric surgeon at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City, said the link between gastric bypass surgery and increased alcohol use has been attributed before to the shifting addiction theory and that this is false. The shifting addiction theory is that if a person has an impulsive drive to eat and the ability to eat large amounts of food is taken away, then he will shift his addiction to another addictive substance, like drugs or alcohol.
"A gastric bypass patient has a small pouch [for a stomach] so alcohol goes straight into the intestine and is absorbed rapidly," said Roslin. "When it is absorbed rapidly, there is a high peak and rapid fall." The higher absorption rate makes alcohol more addictive, he added.
The study also found that the increase in alcohol-use disorders was not seen until the second post-operative year as opposed to the first year after surgery.
"This emphasizes that continuing education about alcohol use is needed until the second year after surgery. With follow up [patients] need to hear about consumption and what is appropriate," said King.
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