For many, weight loss surgery is seen as a lifesaver. It has multiple benefits, including reducing the risk for heart disease and lowering blood pressure. But it has shown to have a distinct disadvantage for certain people: an increased risk of addiction. This is even more prevalent in those who have undergone laparoscopic gastric bypass surgery.

How weight loss surgery affects addictions

Dr. Alexis Conason of the New York Obesity Research Center analyzed the link between gastric bypass surgery and the risk of addiction. In the study, 23 men and 132 women filled out a questionnaire about their substance use multiple times before and after the surgery.

The study theorized that, if patients cannot fulfill their need for food, they are likely to turn to other obsessive tendencies or substances.

addictions after bariatric surgery

In other words, since food is no longer an option to abuse, what substances, drugs, and alcohol will they abuse next?

Obesity and Addictive Personalities

The problem with this personality type is that they are at risk of addiction even after surgery. Without food, the brain’s reward system becomes deprived and naturally turns to alcohol or smoking cigarettes which can be just as harmful as overeating.

In the case of individuals with a binge eating disorder, there were certain trigger foods that caused them to go through periods of excessive eating, just as someone addicted to cigarettes feels the urge to keep smoking.

An Increase in Substance Use

The main types of substances that the study looked at were alcohol, opioid, and smoking cigarettes. The study didn’t show a difference when looking at each element individually, but a substantial increase in a more broad use of substances. In most cases, the patient used multiple substances, such as drinking alcohol and smoking cigarettes, or even using recreational drugs as a way to deal with the lack of food.

After 24 months, the number of patients addicted to alcohol more than doubled from 20% to 63%. Drug addiction also had a similar increase from 5% to 13%.

To avoid these kinds of reactions after bariatric surgery, individuals with an addictive personality should get counseling before and after the procedure. By doing this, they are able to avoid harmful habits caused by neglected emotions and feelings. Health problems for bariatric patients not only include sleep apnea and type 2 diabetes but also damaged mental health.

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