Patient perceptions regarding alcohol use after bariatric surgery

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Surgical endoscopy


INTRODUCTION: Patients who have undergone bariatric surgery are at increased risk of an alcohol use disorder. Though patients understand this risk, the majority engage in post-surgical alcohol use. This suggests that education alone is not sufficient to reduce post-surgical drinking. To prevent development of post-surgical alcohol use disorders, we need better understanding of the reasons patients use alcohol following surgery. The purpose of this study was to identify factors associated with post-surgical alcohol use.

METHOD: Patients (N = 20) who were 1-3 years post-bariatric surgery and were consuming alcohol at least twice monthly participated in a 60-min interview. Participants responded about their knowledge regarding risk of post-surgical alcohol use and reasons why patients may start drinking. Deductive and inductive coding were completed by two independent raters.

RESULTS: Although nearly all participants were aware of the risks associated with post-surgical alcohol use, most believed that lifelong abstinence from alcohol was unrealistic. Common reasons identified for using alcohol after bariatric surgery included social gatherings, resuming pre-surgical use, and addiction transfer. Inductive coding identified three themes: participants consumed alcohol in different ways compared to prior to surgery; the effect of alcohol was substantially stronger than pre-surgery; and beliefs about why patients develop problematic alcohol use following surgery.

CONCLUSION: Patients consume alcohol after bariatric surgery for a variety of reasons and they do not believe recommending abstinence is useful. Understanding patient perceptions can inform interventions to minimize alcohol use after bariatric surgery. Modifications to traditional alcohol relapse prevention strategies may provide a more robust solution to decreasing negative outcomes experienced by individuals undergoing bariatric surgery.

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ePub ahead of print