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Can gastric bypass fuel alcoholism?

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  • New study reports possible link between bariatric surgery and alcohol abuse

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Can gastric bypass fuel alcoholism?

]Tuesday night, HLN’s Dr. Drew took at closer look at a new study that reports a possible link between bariatric surgery and alcohol abuse.

Researchers at the University of Pittsburgh studied alcohol consumption and abuse in nearly 2,000 patients in the United States. They found 11% of the men and women who underwent gastric bypass surgery experienced issues with drinking by the second year after surgery.

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Craig Thompson, who lost 200 lbs. after his weight loss surgery, told Dr. Drew, “Everything was wonderful the first year, losing a pound to two pounds a day… I was truly living the euphoric dream.”  

Around the 18-month mark though, he faced new challenges.

“I never had a problem with alcohol,” he said. “I could have a drink and not have an issue with it. …but because of the way the gastric bypass works, I got drunk almost instantaneously. It took very little alcohol to get me drunk.”

Dr. Drew noted that it’s something he has seen for years.

“Think about it -- you're taking a tube -- and putting it down stream where things are absorbed differently and alcohol is pouring through, getting right into the blood stream and ‘KA-POWEE’!” he explained. “It's like taking a giant shot that your stomach wouldn’t be able to tolerate, [even] if you had your plumbing hooked up properly. And all of that goes right to the brain.”

Thompson later told Dr. Drew, “I love being comfortable. When I'm uncomfortable, that's when things get scary. And when I'm uncomfortable, that's when I look for something to stabilize that level of anxiety. And since I didn't know how to do it internally, I looked for external factors to do it -- whether it was a substance or a relationship -- and one of the things that we're seeing, probably even more than alcohol, is sexual acting out.”

Dr. Drew concluded, “There's a piece here that we miss, which is dealing with the underlying emotional regulation issues often built on trauma.”

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