Alcoholism after Bariatric Surgery

November 28, 2012

Alcoholism is a serious consideration that has to be made by any patient before they undergo bariatric surgery. Food can be addictive and many patients who come into our office for the first consultation, have an unhealthy relationship with what they eat. Food addiction is a disorder of the mind and body. Our brains crave the substance at all costs, regardless of the serious consequences and ramifications – obesity and its related diseases. Unfortunately, bariatric surgery itself does not cure the psychological underpinning of food addiction.

During preoperative testing, all patients will undergo a psychiatric evaluation to ensure that they understand and will be able to follow the post-surgical lifestyle. The psychological consultation however also determines whether or not they have a propensity for addiction. If they are indeed at risk for addiction, considerations and checks and balances will be put in place after surgery. This ensures that when the food is no longer available in the same quantity or composition, another substance of abuse does not take its place.

For some patients, when certain foods and the euphoria they derive from that food is no longer available, they turn to other substances, most often alcohol, to fill the void. The alcohol affects the reward receptors in the brain, giving the patient that former feeling of enjoyment. And while all addiction is equally bad, addiction to substances such as alcohol and drugs can cause acute as well as chronic harm.

It is very important that the patient disclose their history of addiction, if any.  They must be very open and honest during their psychological consultation to ensure that they choose the correct surgical procedure as well as understand the risk factors and triggers for addiction and addiction substitution after surgery. Further, patients may consider including their family and close friends in these discussions in order to have them understand the dangers and warning signs of addiction.

While not every patient will be at risk of substituting alcoholism for their food addiction, it is important that they understand how to prevent addiction from ever entering their post-bariatric surgery lives.

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Advanced Surgical Associates is one of the first exclusively surgical groups practicing in Union County New Jersey. And that is just the first of many firsts for ASA. For over 40 years, we have pioneered breakthrough surgical patient care in North Jersey in both general and weight loss surgery. ASA also offers gastric bypass, gastric sleeve and gastric banding to those suffering from obesity in New Jersey.
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