From Food to Booze
Does weight-loss surgery breed alcoholism?
By: Matthew Hutson
Each year, more than 100,000 people undergo weight-loss surgery in the United States, and for many it's a life-saving procedure. But there's a widely reported side effect that seems to be causing concern—even Oprah is worried. It's called addiction transfer, and if some mental health professionals are right, after bariatric surgery you have a 30 percent chance of replacing food with booze. This drug of choice may just lead you to become an alcoholic.Some researchers, however, say that that number needs to lose some weight of its own. "The problem does happen," says Stephanie Sogg, a psychologist at the Massachusetts General Hospital Weight Center. "But there is no evidence that it happens as frequently as the media suggests." Sogg says that there are no airtight studies on the prevalence of addiction transfer, but the best of the bunch was published in the journal Surgery for Obesity and Related Diseases by a team from North Dakota. Of the 70 people who completed questionnaires, fewer than 6 percent increased alcohol use after surgery, and four times that many actually decreased their alcohol consumption. According to James Mitchell, president and scientific director of the Neuropsychiatric Research Institute in Fargo, North Dakota, and an author of the paper, "A small number of people will develop problems with alcohol postoperatively, but the problem may be a little overblown."Addiction transfer has also been said to spawn addictions to sex, gambling, shopping, and Internet use. "I have only seen one or two [cases] with shopping" Sogg says, but that may result from the need to continually restock one's wardrobe as the pounds come off. Out of the 500 postoperative patients she's seen in the last five years, none had Internet, gambling, or sex issues. Though, according to Sogg, it doesn't mean it's not out there.Why...