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Original Article
February 2013

Substance Use Following Bariatric Weight Loss Surgery

Author Affiliations

Author Affiliations: New York Obesity Nutrition Research Center (Drs Conason, Hsu, and Geliebter and Ms Puma), Division of Minimally Invasive Surgery (Dr Teixeira), St Luke’s–Roosevelt Hospital Center, Columbia University, and Long Island University, C.W. Post (Dr Knafo), New York.

JAMA Surg. 2013;148(2):145-150. doi:10.1001/2013.jamasurg.265

Objective To assess substance use before and after bariatric weight loss surgery (WLS). There is a paucity of research investigating the occurrence of substance use following bariatric WLS. It was hypothesized that patients who underwent WLS would exhibit an increase in substance use (drug use, alcohol use, and cigarette smoking) following surgery to compensate for a marked decrease in food intake.

Design Prospective study.

Setting A major urban community hospital.

Participants A total of 155 participants (132 women and 23 men) who underwent WLS were recruited from a preoperative information session at a bariatric surgery center.

Intervention Participants received either laparoscopic Roux-en-Y gastric bypass surgery (n = 100) or laparoscopic adjustable gastric band surgery (n = 55). Participants completed questionnaires to assess eating behaviors and substance use at preoperative baseline and 1, 3, 6, 12, and 24 months after surgery.

Main Outcome Measure Substance use as assessed by the Compulsive Behaviors Questionnaire.

Results Participants reported significant increases in the frequency of substance use (a composite of drug use, alcohol use, and cigarette smoking, hereafter referred to as composite substance use) 24 months after surgery. Specifically, participants experienced a significant increase in the frequency of composite substance use from baseline to 24 months after surgery (P = .02), as well as significant increases from 1 month, 3 months, and 6 months to 24 months after surgery (all P ≤ .002). In addition, participants who underwent laparoscopic Roux-en-Y gastric bypass surgery reported a significant increase in the frequency of alcohol use from baseline to 24 months after surgery (P = .011). The response rate to the survey was 61% at 1-month follow-up, 41% at 3-month follow-up, 43% at 6-month follow-up, 49% at 12-month follow-up, and 24% at 24-month follow-up.

Conclusions Patients may be at increased risk for substance use following bariatric WLS. In particular, patients who undergo laparoscopic Roux-en-Y gastric bypass surgery may be at increased risk for alcohol use following WLS. Our study is among the first to document significant increases in substance use following WLS using longitudinal data.