Drug and Alcohol Deaths Triple Following Weight-Loss Surgery

A recent study reveals that people who undergo a specific weight-loss surgery are three times more likely to die from drug or alcohol-related causes, according to Web MD.

While the reason still isn’t exactly clear, research shows that the gastric bypass surgery Roux-en-Y can actually change how the body reacts to drugs and alcohol, according to study authors at the University of Pittsburgh.

“The effect is purely physiological, not psychological,” said Dr. John Morton, Chief of Bariatric and Minimally Invasive Surgery at Yale School of Medicine, who was not involved with the study but reviewed the findings. “Gastric bypass surgery removes 95 percent of the stomach. Alcohol receptors exist in the stomach and the liver, so by removing so much of the stomach, people lose the first pass at metabolizing alcohol.”

Researchers studied almost 2,500 people who had the weight-loss procedure at one of ten hospitals in the United States. Participants were followed for seven years. They had a median age of 46, and eight out of ten were women. Eighty-six percent were white.

Incredibly, ten of the people who participated in the study died from drug- or alcohol-related causes within that time frame — eight deaths were from drug overdoses and two were from alcoholic liver disease.

“Our study primarily focused on those who had Roux-en-Y gastric bypass surgery; it did not examine differences in drug- and alcohol-related mortality among those who had undergone” another type of weight-loss surgery, said study co-author Wendy King.

The Roux-en-Y gastric bypass is one of three forms of weight-loss surgery, others are sleeve gastrectomy and gastric banding.

“New evidence suggests that sleeve gastrectomy may also alter the way alcohol is metabolized in the body, so there is more work to do,” said King.

While the sleeve gastrectomy also removes part of the stomach, it does not remove nearly as much as a Roux-en-Y gastric bypass.

The study was published in the online medical journal Surgery for Obesity and Related Diseases.

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