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August 03, 2006

Addiction Transfer: The emerging Gastric Bypass Effect

Smokingaddiction On the heels of a five-year boom in weight-loss surgeries, researchers are observing an unusual phenomenon: Some patients stop overeating, but they wind up acquiring new disorders such as alcoholism, gambling addiction or compulsive shopping.

Some psychologists describe it as a type of "addiction transfer," an outcome of substance abuse treatment whereby patients swap one compulsive behavior for another.

Estimates on the prevalence of new addictions after surgery vary. Philip Schauer, president of the American Society for Bariatric Surgery, estimates that about 5 percent of patients develop a new compulsive behavior after surgery.

But psychologist Melodie Moorehead, who spoke at the society's annual meeting in June, cited preliminary data suggesting that about 30 percent of patients struggle with new addictions.

One possible reason for the disparity: Alcohol problems can surface several years later, when surgeons are no longer tracking patients closely. And some patients may not see a link between their drinking and the surgery.

For a variety of reasons -- including the fact that alcohol is high in calories -- bariatric-surgery patients are often advised not to drink alcohol for the first six months to a year after surgery. Most bariatric centers screen patients for heavy alcohol use, and exclude patients who exhibit signs of alcohol dependence.

Gastric bypass surgery involves sectioning off a small portion of the stomach into a pouch that bypasses the first part of the small intestine. As a result, alcohol passes rapidly into the intestine where it is quickly absorbed into the bloodstream.

"You shorten the time to the brain so much that if you liked alcohol before, you'll love it now," says Mark Gold, professor of psychiatry and neuroscience at the University of Florida College of Medicine.

Lap-band procedures don't have the same impact. The procedure involves restricting part of the stomach with a silicon band but doesn't change the absorption process.


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what what a night mare this surgey has caused for our family. actually my husband is the one who had it and he feels great. But the change in his personality is really hurting has anyone else been through this. Please help


Shelley: It is so important to take care of the psychological issues before and after the surgery. There are so many changes in the body mind with this operation. You really need to see professional help here. When did he has his surgery ?


I would caution anyone who considers this surgery who has a history of alcohol use - watch out! Four and one half years after her surgery, my sister has become an out of control alcoholic. She is putting my family through hell and is drowning in emotional, legal and financial problems. In pre-op discussions, the surgeon and his staff skimmed over the subject of alcohol, just stating that alcohol should be avoided the first year and that alcohol "will really hit you harder and quicker" than before surgery - Thanks a lot, Doc. I would urge anyone who decides to have this surgery to AVOID ALCOHOL COMPLETELY.


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Mark gold professor of pslychiatry and neuroscience at the University of Florida College ofl Medicine explains it this way, You shorten the time to the brain so much that if youliked alcohol before such a surgery in order to flesh out any problems.
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I am having this surgery and all these scare mongering things people are saying will not put me off It is life saving and People should look at it like that.I am.


My wife had this surgery around 2003 and now we are headed towards divorce. She became an alcoholic,continues to use/abuse prescription mind-altering painkillers, and spent thousands and thousands on new clothes for her new body that forced us into bankruptcy. All the while in denial for it all blaming me and every one else for her problems. So , I am convinced this transfer is for real. She has destroyed many lives. I wish she never had this but she has always looked for the easy way out.Diet and exercise are the only good solutions.


Don's 2/14/11 post is very similar to my own experience. The alcohol and perscription drug issues are destroying my wife, and her bizarre behaviors, mood swings, etc are destroying lives around her. I truely wish she had never had the operation. For anyone considering such an operation....beware!

R Bock

I wish someone would have told me that if you lose 250lbs you will be miserable. I lost my family, my job,my freedom,my self respect my dignity my smile, my peace, I would rather be fat and happy.


I have also been thru hell since my surgery. Almost bled to death 4 times, addicted to pain medication, lost my husband, children, teeth, and my mind just about. Addiction transfer is a horrible thing id rather be fat and happy too :(

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