More and more people in the United States are opting for bariatric, or weight loss, surgery. However, new research finds that one of the most common forms of weight loss surgery may raise the risk of alcohol dependence.

Bariatric surgery is an increasingly popular option for those looking to lose weight. The American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery (ASMBS) report that the number of weight loss surgeries in the U.S. has increased from 158,000 in 2011 to almost 200,000 in 2015.

Researchers led by Wendy C. King, Ph.D., associate professor of epidemiology at the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health in Pennsylvania, set out to examine the long-term evolution of patients who have undergone bariatric surgery. King and colleagues found a link between having the procedure and alcohol problems.

Specifically, the team focused on Roux-en-Y gastric bypass (RYGB) – a type of weight loss surgery that changes the structure of the small intestine and makes the stomach smaller, reducing it to the size of an egg.

The findings were published in Surgery for Obesity and Related Diseases.

One in 5 patients developed alcohol problems within 5 years of surgery

The team examined more than 2,300 patients who were enrolled in the Longitudinal Assessment of Bariatric Surgery-2 (LABS-2) over a follow-up period of 7 years. LABS-2 is a prospective, observational cohort study of people who had weight loss surgery in 10 hospitals across the U.S.

During the follow-up, RYGB was the most popular procedure, undergone by 1,481 patients. Most of the remaining patients (522) had another procedure called laparoscopic gastric banding, in which an adjustable band is inserted around the upper part of the patient’s stomach, limiting their intake of food.

Fascinating study who would have expected this?   It makes sense though.  The faster a substance is absorbed and impacts the brain the more addictive it is.  This is why ‘crack’ is more addictive than snorting cocaine–even though it’s all the same drug; cocaine.

Dr. Raymond Oenbrink