Alcohol use patterns and alcohol use disorders among young adult, ethnically diverse bariatric surgery patients

Subst Abus. Jan-Mar 2017;38(1):82-87. doi: 10.1080/08897077.2016.1262305. Epub 2016 Nov 22.


Background: Research suggests that young adults and racial/ethnic minorities are at an increased risk for problematic alcohol use. Recent studies have also documented patterns of problematic alcohol use among a subset of weight loss surgery (WLS) patients. However, to date, there are no published studies investigating the intersection of these demographic and clinical characteristics.

Methods: This study used descriptive and inferential analyses to examine alcohol use patterns, prevalence of pre- and post-WLS alcohol use disorders (AUDs), and predictors of increased alcohol use and problematic alcohol use post-WLS among young adult (mean age 26.5 years, SD = 5.5 years) ethnically diverse (57% Hispanic, 28% non-Hispanic black) WLS patients (N = 69).

Results: Over 21% of the sample had a history of a lifetime AUD, and 4.2% of the sample developed an AUD post-WLS. In the past 30 days, 14.5% of respondents reported binge drinking, and 42% reported drinking until intoxication. History of a pre-WLS AUD was associated with an increased frequency of alcohol use post-WLS (P = .012). Age, time since WLS, the gastric bypass procedure, and pre-WLS history of an AUD were not significant predictors of binge drinking or drinking to intoxication post-WLS.

Conclusions: Ethnically diverse, young adults may have an elevated prevalence of AUD diagnoses pre-WLS. Having a pre-WLS AUD appears to be a risk factor for increased alcohol use post-WLS. Young adult WLS patients might also demonstrate high rates of binge drinking and drinking to intoxication. Binge drinking could be especially problematic considering that WLS could increase sensitivity to alcohol. Further investigation is warranted with this important subpopulation to explore risk factors for problematic alcohol use post-WLS; future assessments of alcohol use should consider potential heightened alcohol sensitivity resulting from WLS.

Keywords: Addiction; alcohol; alcohol use disorders; bariatric surgery; substance use; weight loss surgery; young adult.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • African Americans / psychology*
  • Alcohol Drinking / epidemiology*
  • Alcoholism / epidemiology*
  • Bariatric Surgery / psychology*
  • Female
  • Florida / epidemiology
  • Hispanic or Latino / psychology*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Prevalence
  • Risk Factors
  • Young Adult