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New-Onset Substance Use Disorder After Gastric Bypass Surgery: Rates and Associated Characteristics



Substance use disorder (SUD) may develop de novo for a subgroup of weight loss surgery patients, particularly those who have had the Roux-en-Y gastric bypass (RYGB) procedure. The present study examined the rate of SUD in a broad sample of RYGB patients and identified associated behavioral and psychological factors.


Participants included 143 RYGB patients; the majority were women (n = 120; 83.9 %) and white (n = 135; 94.4 %). Participants completed a web-based survey assessing retrospective accounts of presurgical substance use, eating pathology, family history, and traumatic history, postsurgical substance use, life stressors, and global trait-like measures (emotion dysregulation, impulsivity, sensation-seeking, and coping skills).


A subgroup (n = 28, 19.6 %) of post-RYGB patients met criteria for probable SUD; however, the majority of those who met SUD criteria postsurgery (n = 19, 68 %) did not report a pre-RYGB SUD history. Family history of substance abuse, poor coping skills, and potential life stressors were related to post-RYGB SUD, particularly for the new-onset group. Additionally, the majority of those who met criteria for pre-RYGB SUD (n = 21, 70 %) did not continue to meet SUD criteria following RYGB.


Findings highlight a subgroup of post-RYGB patients reporting new-onset SUD, which is unexpected among middle-aged women. Importantly, findings also indicate that many patients with presurgical SUD did not relapse postsurgery. Assessing for family history of SUD and coping skills at the presurgical evaluation is recommended. Future research should identify psychological and physiological risk factors for SUD postsurgery and examine protective factors of those who discontinue substance use postsurgery.

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This work was performed at Eastern Michigan University and St. Vincent Bariatric Center of Excellence, USA. Preparation of this manuscript was supported by the Eastern Michigan University Department of Psychology, the EMU Graduate School, the Blue Cross Blue Shield Michigan Foundation, and St. Vincent Bariatric Center of Excellence. We would like to acknowledge members of the first author's dissertation committee. The committee chair was second author, Dr. Karen K. Saules, and committee members included Drs. Anne Eshelman, Tamara Loverich, and Kenneth Rusiniak. We would like to also acknowledge Katharine Hudson and Dr. David Creel for their assistance in participant recruitment.

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.

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Correspondence to Valentina Ivezaj.

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Ivezaj, V., Saules, K.K. & Schuh, L.M. New-Onset Substance Use Disorder After Gastric Bypass Surgery: Rates and Associated Characteristics. OBES SURG 24, 1975–1980 (2014).

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  • Alcohol use disorders
  • Bariatric surgery
  • Gastric bypass
  • Substance use disorders
  • Weight loss surgery