Addicition Transfer after Weight Loss Surgery

November 15, 2011

By Dr. Jefferson Vaughan, Bariatric Surgeon

Food addiction is real. Just as our bodies can become dependent on “traditionally addictive” substances, so too do our bodies crave and need sugar and fat. Uncontrolled urges lead to overeating and a vicious cycle ensues – often developing into obesity. As a result of this trend in the modern American’s lifestyle, obesity has, by any account, become an epidemic in the United States with a significant majority of the population suffering from obesity or overweight issues.

There are many treatments for obesity, with varying degrees of effectiveness, including:

  • Traditional Diet and Exercise
  • Medically Supervised Weight Loss Programs
  • Pills and Medication
  • Counseling and Hypnotherapy
  • Bariatric Surgery (Weight Loss Surgery)

The most effective of these treatments, though not the least invasive, has been shown to be bariatric surgery. On average, patients lose about 75% of their excess body weight and keep it off for 5 years or longer (individual results vary of course). Other treatments have more mixed results at best, although there is no one size fits all approach to obesity.

But what about the underlying addiction that may have contributed to the obesity in the first place? Well, that is a real and ever present danger. Most bariatric surgery patients are able to follow their new and improved lifestyle and keep the weight off in a healthy manner. Others succumb to their addiction and in the absence of food, may turn to substance abuse, gambling, compulsive shopping, or promiscuity to fill the void. Others may develop other eating disorders such as anorexia and bulimia. This is called addiction transfer.

It is very important that when working with obese patients, in the counseling or medical setting, that the underlying psychological contributors to the obesity are addressed. Addiction counselors and medical staff alike should be acutely aware of the dangers of addiction transfer and address it accordingly through solid diagnosis and referral to qualified individuals.

Reviewed by Alton Smith, The Academy for Addiction Professionals

About Dr. Jefferson Vaughan

Dr. Jefferson Vaughan is a bariatric / weight loss surgeon and is the director of the Institute for Bariatric and Metabolic Surgery at Jupiter Medical Center in Jupiter, FL. As a premier surgeon in the field, Dr. Vaughan has performed over 2000 gastric bypass surgeries and has trained over three dozen surgical teams in minimally invasive surgical techniques.

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