Obesity is often an outward symptom of something deeper; when paired with alcohol being absorbed at nearly full proof you’ve got an ominous combination of circumstances.

Post ops and Alcohol: Do you drink too much?

In 2012, a study in JAMA Surgery found a significant increase in alcohol use disorders for patients after gastric bypass, but but little evidence of higher rates after lap banding.

Unlike gastric bypass or sleeve, banding does not permanently alter the stomach’s architecture. The difference between the two types of surgeries suggests that alcohol abuse is related to structural changes from gastric bypass or sleeve. The study also found no significant increase in patients’ use of other drugs, including cigarettes, or compulsive behaviors such as gambling. The article concluded that if it were addiction transfer, it would been seen across the board in all bariatric procedures.

Only a small percentage of bariatric patients claim to have problems with alcohol after surgery. Most, but not all, who abuse alcohol after surgery had problems with alcohol abuse at some period of time prior to surgery. Alcohol sensitivity is increased after bariatric surgery so that the effects of alcohol are greatly amplified with fewer drinks than before surgery.

With certain bariatric procedures – such as the gastric bypass or sleeve gastrectomy – drinking an alcoholic beverage increases blood alcohol to levels that are considerably higher than before surgery or in comparison to the alcohol levels of individuals who have not had a bariatric procedure.

The liver and stomach produce an enzyme that breaks down alcohol into less toxic molecules. Because gastric bypass and sleeve patients have much less stomach and therefore much less enzyme, more pure alcohol enters their bloodstream. Drinking alcohol in your post op life is the epitome of drinking on an empty stomach as your stomach is almost nonexistent. Drinking a cocktail after a gastric bypass or sleeve is like having an alcohol IV.

For all of these reasons, bariatric patients are advised to take certain precautions regarding alcohol:

  • No Alcohol during the rapid weight-loss period that takes place in the first 12 months after surgery
  • Be aware that even small amounts of alcohol can cause dangerous levels of intoxication with serious consequences
  • Never drink alcohol unless you are with someone who you can trust with your life and understands that you have had bariatric surgery
  • Do not drive after drinking any alcohol
  • Eat if you plan to have a drink
  • Seek help if drinking becomes a problem for you


With over 35,000 members in our Bariatric Eating Support Group and No More Bariatric Regain Group on Facebook we sometimes have members reach out when they are concerned that they are drinking too much wine or cannot stop drinking. This is a conversation that took place between members that spoke volumes in a voice we could never duplicate.  We have changed the names and skewed the stories slightly so no one is recognizable but the tone and intention remains. It is an important read if you have ever thought ‘am I drinking to much wine. 


MM:  Today I found the courage to face my demons. I have participated in everybody’s food and general issues and have commented but today I’m ready for whatever comes my way. I had my sleeve in September and I thought it would change me, but it only changed my size. I still drink alcohol and still have issues with who I am. I have chimed in on other people’s issues and I really mean well and feel normal but I have been struggling with alcohol for my entire journey. I don’t know what to do and don’t know how to change. I’ve recently lost my job and my insurance is going to lapse. I know I need counseling but feel lost and embarrassed. It’s taken me a lot to write this.

VB: I don’t think I can help but I will tell u how very brave u are to admit this. Our journeys are multi-faceted and complex. I think the place to begin would be a local listing of local AA mtgs, pretty sure those are free and wouldn’t require insurance or $$$. I am wishing u the best.

LSAD: My sister had WLS ten years ago and she has been addicted to alcohol since then. It is so hard to watch. She thinks we don’t know but we’ve known all along. My love for her can never lessen no matter what. Please know that you are loved and that people want to help. People around you want you to love yourself as much as they love you. You are so very brave! I am proud of you for being honest with yourself. Help is there for you and this is a big first step.

SN: I am a social worker. I have seen people with addiction for close to 17 years. Please seek treatment. AA and counseling. There are free services out there. Contact your local health department. Alcoholism is a disease. You need treatment just like you would with any other disease. Don’t ever feel embarrassed. You are not alone. There are wonderful people out there to help you. Thoughts and prayers are with you!

MMC: My doc warned against this and did an after surgery workshop on it – I’m struggling with alcohol as well

PLJ: MMC you are lucky to have had this education. So important. So thankful I have this group.

KGJ: I know several other people have said it, but AA is really a great way to go. Please seek out a meeting. If you need a ride, there’s usually someone willing to perform that service for newcomers. (Even if you just need it because you don’t want to walk in alone.) Get a sponsor – someone who has been sober for a while and is able to guide you through The Steps, someone willing to take your calls in the middle of the night when you feel like you can’t do it alone. Frequently, old timers will pass around a meeting list and those willing and able to take calls will write their numbers down, then give it to newcomers so you have them, without having to ask. Most areas have meetings everyday, at different times and locations, so you can get to meetings several times a week. You can go online to look for meetings in your area, and there will be number and first name of a contact person. You aren’t alone in this, and I want you to know just how brave you are. It takes courage to admit you have a problem and need help. Please let us know how you’re doing and that you have reached out for help. Feel free to contact me if you need to talk.

HL: Just an IMPORTANT NOTE HERE, not a judgement, not all alcoholics are Christians, and not all AA groups are Christian-based, either. A Higher Power is whoever you believe it to be, and that’s okay in AA. The best part of AA is that you get support from others, you aren’t judged, and you aren’t ALONE. You are only ‘new’ your first time. You can do this.

FSS: Sweet girl find an AA Group, get a sponsor and go from there You are on the right path by wanting to change. Alcohol addiction is a disease and I lost my fiancé because of alcoholism. You have come too far to not keep fighting!! I watched him suffer from liver disease among other things. As hard as i know it was for him, love yourself enough to know you are worth it!

BIC: Ask the Lord to remove your taste and desire for it and if you sincerely mean it, he will. Praying for you.


MM: BIC thank you for this. My faith and belief are important to me. I know what I need to do, I have done it but I still need deliverance. Not from the alcohol but why I drink it. I drink because I have other issues. I’m worried about what the alcohol will do to my new stomach. As well as what it will do to me if I don’t let the issues go that bind me to this addiction.

BL: Hi MM, my addiction switched to alcohol after my weight loss surgery. I hit a very hard bottom almost 3 years ago and had my moment of desperation. I went to rehab and have been in AA ever since. I urge you to go to AA. When I got to AA, I found women there who loved me until I could love myself and carried me through some very tough consequences of my drinking. When I got there, they told me I would never have to feel like that again and they were right. I have met people in AA who had weight loss surgery and had their addiction switch too. You are not alone and you are worthy.

BIC: I understand. Maybe seek a professional or clergy (since you mentioned insurance ) to assist with getting to the root of the problem. Hang in there! Looking to see your testimony on here.


MM: Very thankful for this support group.

GTM: Treatment is not embarrassing. I understand. I was there 4 years ago. It sounds like you are ready. When you begin to understand the way alcohol controls your brain and body chemically, you will begin to feel better about yourself. There is medication that they can give you to assist with cravings, etc. It is a journey, but you CAN do this! Please feel free to contact me.

FT: I have a very close family member who has been sober over 40 years in AA. Still goes regularly, and helps newcomers. You can do it! Just reach out for the help you need. I wish you the best.

MS: If you are a Christian, Celebrate Recovery is a faith based program offered at many churches. It is a support group that helps with any hurt, habit or hang up. You can Google it or call your church to see if they can tell you where a group is being held. It is 100% free. Take one day at a time and as another had said you are already one step ahead by admitting you have a problem. Blessings and prayers as you walk this journey of recovery.

BP: How brave you are to stand up and say you need help! Please Know you are loved and supported by this group. That being said I agree with all of those above and hope you go to AA. Also counseling through public health and possibly celebrate. There are many groups available. Let us know how you are doing. Praying for you.

BPK: Praying that you find the peace you are searching. Please seek the help you need to find the happiness you seek. There are mental health professionals and groups that operate on an income based sliding scale that can help. Maybe that is an option for you.

MCL: I struggle with transfer addiction also. I had RNY 6 years ago. Sailed along for two years, 110 pound loss. One day I was having lunch with a friend who had RNY a year before me. She said that she had a glass of wine from time to time. Well, it was like an open invitation for me! I started drinking, several days a week. I even encouraged another RNY friend to give it a try! For the next few years I couldn’t put the glass down. I drank during the day when I was alone and drank around my family at night. I began to EAT, thinking I could cover up the drinking and hoping they wouldn’t know that I was drunk before the sun went down! It caused real issues with my family and my husband AND it caused a 55 pound regain! One Saturday night I had my ‘aha’ moment! It was a huge fight with my husband. I was drunk, angry, and out of control. I went to bed completely defeated and alone. I woke up the next day and decided to do something about it all. I am a Christian, and I knew I couldn’t do this alone. That very day I started the 48-hour Pouch Reset, then went on to Back on Track program. I’ve lost 25 pounds, but more importantly to me, I haven’t had a drink since then. It is definitely a day-to-day struggle, but I give it to God every day. And I try not to keep going back and ‘checking on’ what I’ve given Him! Please know that I’m praying for you. You can contact me if you ever need encouragement!

LJ: My story too! I sent you a friend request

TT: The biggest step you will EVER make was posting this. Not everyone is perfect, and with some help from somewhere you can beat it. You are ready. This group is the best at sharing anything and has plenty of people who have been there. Good luck!

HWJ: Wishing u the best! I’ve been sober over 15 yrs now. Admitting it is the first step in recovery. Find your local AA they specialize in people just like u. Seek out people just like yourself for help. If I can help U in any way please let me know. Words without action are just words. Seek help now!

BD: Everything said about AA is true and it’s the same wherever you go. AA is a great place to go for help. The members of AA will love on you, encourage you and help you through just as the members of this group do. My husband is a recovering alcoholic who has been sober through the help of his higher power and a member of AA for going on 20 years. Praying for you!

RV: AA is a great group…. been to meetings as support and have gone to Children of Alcoholics….You can do this. And this group is here for you.

PN: I too had a transfer addiction. I had RNY in 2002 lost 220 lbs and and all of a sudden I was back to the comfort of food.. When I got my food kinda under control I turned to alcohol 5 years ago… I had a regain of 90 lbs! I had my ah ha moment in March of this year, I had had enough, my husband and I were arguing all the time and something need to change, I needed to change, I was ruining my marriage. I did the pouch reset and have been on Back on Track since and I have lost 43 lbs.. My new addiction are Inspire shakes, Zumba and the scale moving. It is tough, but I can do this and so can you. I haven’t had a drink since March. I can’t say I don’t have the urge for a drink. The struggle is real! This is a great group with lots of caring people. I find myself on this page reading and rereading the success stories….looking for support, advice , guidance and reassurance that I can lose all this regain. I can stay focused and committed to me! It can happen. It does happen. Good luck to you and if need someone to talk to, I am here.

AA: Sometimes all it takes is a good friend whose been there and understands. You are awesome!! I hope she reaches out to you.

HP: I’m sorry you are going through this, AA will be the best place for you. My best friend goes and it has helped her tremendously.

TK: Please go to AA! Your life depends on it. Here is a great article that describes why alcohol is so dangerous for us.

Top 10 Bariatric Mistakes


MLP: I agree with a 12 step program. I finally joined an Al-anon program to help me with family addiction. It literally saved my relationship with my son. He is 18 months clean. We all have some issues here, but help is available. There are also over eaters anonymous meetings that may help with the food issues. Good luck. Keep us posted – one day at a time

DK: I was sleeved in 2014 also and I lost almost 50 lbs and then I started eating things I knew were not good but I did anyway and now I have gained 20 lb back already. I have got to get this under control, but I have some health issues and other things going on right now. It is hard I feel for you. will keep you in my thoughts and prayers, Just remember eat day is a new start.

GP: Hugs proud of you. Kick that demon in the ass. My first husband died from alcohol at age 42. My youngest daughter now at 35 is a stone cold alcoholic. I have had to walk out of her life 2 year ago due to her mental and emotional abuse towards me. I expect the phone call every day that she has died. Get yourself some help. You are worth more them that. As the wife and mother of alcoholics, you are stronger than the drink. Please get some help.

Kelsey Payumo ADMIN:  Good Morning MM! This is a safe place. A lot of us struggle with different addictions and tragedy, we have life events that are triggering. The idea behind WLS isn’t just to fix your body, but it’s also to give you a new chance at living your best life. I hope that you will continue to fight the good fight and we are here to help you along your way. We have a great article on our website that you might find to be fitting

After Bariatric Surgery, How Do We Cope When LIFE Hits Us in the Rear?


HLS: So proud of you my love. You have taking a huge step. You can do this. Alcoholism runs in my family and I can truly understand your struggle and pain. I will help you in any way I can including going to meetings with you. I know first hand that the struggle is real from my own close family. I love you Sis.

LJ: This is so Real. Thank you for posting this! I believe my drinking is one the reasons I had a 50 pound regain. I’m on BOT day 4 and I am taking one day at a time to be sober. I will admit it is hard. but I’m glad this is a safe place to talk about our demons and struggles!

FBT: Good for you for reaching out!!! I am an alcoholic in recovery and a member of AA.

GL: AA is free and powerful, you could not ask for a more complete treatment and support system

HS: Bravo to you for saying something here. Alcohol abuse after bariatric surgery is a major issue that is skimmed over by many doctors. I know because it almost killed me. Literally. It happened fast and got to a life threatening point in less than 2 years, but this month I will be 20 months sober. I went to detox, outpatient and am now in AA. The program has saved my life. If you ever need to talk please reach out.

HRJ: AA, NA and OA saved my life!


MM: Thank you all for the testimonials and support, I’m glad I have you all to help me through this. I will keep you posted on my progress.

LJ: You know I was thinking about my own problems and I remember reading a book called “Excuses Be Gone” by the late Wayne Dyer. He spoke of his own journey as an alcoholic and how once he had a respect for his body he no longer wanted alcohol to poison his temple. It was a very spiritual journey and this isn’t about religion. It’s about understanding we are comprised of 3 things: spiritual health, mental health and our physical health. The mental and physical manifestation is in response to what is going on in our spirit. I’m a certified wellness coach and holistic practitioner and I, of all people know this, but sometimes when we are going through it, we can’t see clearly. That’s why this group is so important to us.

FPJ: Dr. Wayne Dyer was a minister in his own right. I’m thankful that he shared is gifts. I’m sure that if you heed to LJ’s suggestion a miracle will take place in your life. God speed


Sister Mary Margaret: I’m proud of you for writing this. It’s not only going to help you, but it will help others face their own demons. I hope you will join AA and realize there are lots of wonderful people, just like you, battling this same demon and getting help.



7 thoughts on “Post ops and Alcohol: Do you drink too much?

  1. Amy E says:

    I am happy to see that this subject is being brought up more and more, I have had a problem with drinking post surgery as well. I am a therapist and have heard of others struggling as well. I am considering creating a curriculum for a specific support group for drinking issues post surgery. Do you all think this would be successful?

    • Susan Maria Leach says:

      It is only a slightly higher percentage than with people who have NOT had weight loss surgery so no, I dont think that a specialized program for bariatric is needed. People rely on alcohol for many reasons all being equally sad or troublesome, being MO is a symptom rather than a cause in most cases.

  2. Connie says:

    I had the gastric bypass boat 3 years ago and I started drinking so I started gaining some weight when they put me on some pill called Gabapentin so I’ll let you know I need help thank you Connie

  3. April Brown says:

    I’m so glad I ran across this topic! I’m 4yrs post op and Yes, I had a Big problem and couldn’t understand why!
    I prayed and prayed that the Lord would take the desire for Alcohol away but it seemed my prayers went unanswered! I was so Angry at God!
    Well, it wasn’t until this year that I’m finally feeling like I can do this and it took the Lord to remove several friendships that made me take a Look in the Mirror and decide not to bring Old Ugly habits into 2019!
    So, the Lord replaced those lost friends with 100 New Like Minded Friends with POSITIVE Attitudes!
    I joined a Running Group in my area that meets 4xs a week, so I’m getting back on track and my New passion is Staying Healthy, in which I have NO DESIRE FOR ALCOHOL!!
    I feel I had to replace Bad habits with something Good and something that I can Enjoy!
    However, like it was said…ONE DAY AT A TIME. and I KEEP CHRIST AT THE CENTER OF IT ALL!

  4. Chalace says:

    I’m really happy to see this article. There is a real problem with transfer addiction after weight loss surgery. I went to rehab and met MANY other gastric bypass patients who were there for alcoholism. I am sober now, and am back to struggling with food addiction. It is SO hard, but it can be overcome. One day at a time.

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