The Unseen Rise of Alcoholism After Weight Loss Surgery

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  • A Swedish study reveals that young individuals undergoing obesity surgery experience persistent mental health challenges, despite significant weight loss
  • Pre-surgery vulnerabilities are evident, with an increased likelihood of mental health treatment before the procedure
  • Post-surgery, mental health issues persist, accompanied by a concerning rise in alcohol-related problems among the youth

Recent research conducted by Lund University and Karolinska Institutet in Sweden has shed light on the mental health outcomes of young individuals who have undergone bariatric surgery for obesity. Despite achieving significant and permanent weight loss, the study reveals that the mental health of these young individuals did not show improvement (1 Trusted Source
Alcohol use disorders before and after bariatric surgery: a systematic review and meta-analysis

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Pre-Surgery Mental Health Challenges

The study examined mental health issues among young people in Sweden who underwent bariatric surgery between 2007 and 2017. Astonishingly, the findings indicated that even before the surgery, these individuals were more likely to have received treatment and medication for mental health problems.

This alarming trend was observed up to five years prior to the surgery, indicating a pre-existing vulnerability among the youth who eventually opted for bariatric interventions.

Contrary to the positive impacts of bariatric surgery on physical health, including weight loss, blood sugar control, and blood pressure regulation, this disconcerting pattern continued post-surgery, with young individuals maintaining a higher demand for mental health treatment compared to their non-surgical peers.


Alarming Rise in Alcohol Dependency

In addition to the sustained mental health challenges, the research uncovered an increase in dependency diagnoses, particularly alcoholism, within the surgical group. The comparison between the pre-surgery period and the general youth population highlighted a concerning trend.

The findings indicate that bariatric surgery might inadvertently contribute to an elevated risk of alcohol-related problems in the postoperative period. This insight emphasizes the need for a more nuanced understanding of the comprehensive impact of bariatric interventions, addressing both physical and mental health outcomes.


Reasons for Alcoholism after Bariatric Surgery

  • Bariatric surgery, particularly procedures like gastric bypass, can lead to changes in the way the body metabolizes alcohol. Post-surgery, alcohol may be absorbed more quickly and have a more pronounced impact, potentially increasing the risk of dependence.
  • The stressors and challenges associated with undergoing bariatric surgery, along with the significant lifestyle changes required for postoperative success, might contribute to an increased risk of alcohol dependence as a coping mechanism.
  • Bariatric surgery can influence the brain’s reward system, potentially altering the perception and response to substances like alcohol. This neurological impact may contribute to an increased susceptibility to dependence.
  • Changes in social dynamics and environments post-surgery, such as altered social activities or coping mechanisms, could influence the development of alcohol dependence among individuals who have undergone bariatric procedures.
  • The study also noted that young individuals undergoing bariatric surgery had a higher likelihood of receiving treatment for mental health issues even before the surgery.
  • Pre-existing vulnerabilities may play a role in both mental health challenges and the development of alcohol dependence post-surgery.

Acknowledging the persistent mental health challenges and the increased risk of alcohol-related problems post-surgery is crucial for healthcare professionals, policymakers, and individuals contemplating such interventions.

Future research and interventions should focus on developing holistic approaches to address both the physical and mental well-being of youth undergoing obesity surgery.


  1. Alcohol use disorders before and after bariatric surgery: a systematic review and meta-analysis – (


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