Problematic Alcohol Use and Associated Characteristics Following Bariatric Surgery

Kathryn E. Smith, Scott G. Engel, Kristine J. Steffen, Luis Garcia, Karen Grothe, Afton Koball, James E. Mitchell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


Purpose: Evidence suggests that a significant minority of individuals who undergo Roux-en-Y gastric bypass (RYGB) experience problematic alcohol and substance use following surgery. However, little research has examined characteristics, drinking patterns, and possible risk factors within this population. To provide descriptive information of a sample of adults with self-identified alcohol use problems following bariatric surgery, this study examined (1) alcohol and substance use symptoms using standardized assessments, (2) current and past psychiatric comorbidity, (3) subjective changes in alcohol sensitivity following surgery, and (4) specific patterns of alcohol use prior to and following bariatric surgery. Materials and Methods: Adult participants (N = 26) completed a series of structured diagnostic interviews and self-report assessments (e.g., Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test [AUDIT], Michigan Alcohol Screening Test [MAST], Drug Abuse Screening Test [DAST]) by telephone 1 to 4 years following a RYGB or sleeve gastrectomy. Results: All participants met objective criteria for current problematic alcohol use based on AUDIT and MAST cutoff scores, reported increased subjective sensitivity to alcohol following surgery, and evidenced significant current and past psychiatric comorbidities, most notably previous major depression (45.5%). Approximately one third of participants evidenced new-onset Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV) alcohol use or dependence following surgery. Preoperative drinking frequencies and quantities were similar to those reported during the period of the heaviest postoperative alcohol use. Conclusions: Findings have implications for pre- and postoperative prevention and intervention efforts. Additional research is needed to further elucidate risk factors for problematic alcohol use following bariatric surgery.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1248-1254
Number of pages7
JournalObesity Surgery
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 1 2018


  • Alcohol use
  • Comorbidity
  • Postoperative alcohol problems
  • Psychopathology
  • Substance use

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
  • Nutrition and Dietetics


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