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If you have recently undergone weight loss surgery, is there a higher risk for developing substance abuse? You may not have anticipated the changes you had to make after bariatric surgery, which could lead to altered emotions and elevated levels of stress. Here’s why patients may be at a higher risk for substance use following bariatric surgery.

Is there a correlation between bariatric surgery and substance abuse?

On average, 19% of patients had significant alcohol use prior to bariatric surgery. In the same study, researchers found 23% of patients had significant alcohol use after bariatric surgery. Is there a correlation between the two? This study suggests there is , with odds increasing around one year after your weight loss surgery. Since diet is restricted for the first 6-12 months, substance abuse is usually not seen in patients until 1-2 years post-surgery. Experts cannot pinpoint exactly why there may be more substance use following bariatric surgery, but have come up with some explanations. Following bariatric surgery, you are required to make life changes that could affect your mood and how you see your body. It takes time to get used to your new way of living after all; you are certainly not alone when feeling these types of emotions following bariatric surgery.

Psychological Risk Factors for Substance Abusive After Weight Loss Surgery

Do you know if you may be at a higher risk for substance abuse after weight loss surgery? According to a study by The American Journal of Gastroenterology, there are certain factors that could make you more at risk. It is important to note that the increased risk is not usually seen until at least a year after weight loss surgery. Here are some factors that were found to be associated with a higher risk for substance abuse after weight loss surgery:

  • Depression/Anxiety
  • Poor Body Image
  • History of Substance Abuse
  • Cigarette Smoking
  • Regular Alcohol Use
  • Recreational Drug Use

Why do we see this correlation?

There are several theories as to why certain factors can contribute to substance use following bariatric surgery. It is common for patients to trade one addiction for another if they were previously addicted to food and now must follow a stricter diet. Many patients describe it as a “break up” with food. It is not uncommon for you to feel increased emotions during this period. Know you are not alone in this struggle. There are many resources available like support groups hosted by your hospital or individual mental health counseling. Seek out help from your surgical team if you have any questions or need a referral.

How to Reduce Your Chances of Substance Use

Reduce your chances of substance abuse after your weight loss surgery by going to your post-surgical checkups and following all guidance and recommendations of your surgical team. Anticipate that there will be many changes with weight loss. Your body may undergo physical and emotional changes, seeing that you will be losing weight rapidly at first. You might get extra skin folds or feel uncomfortable about how your body looks. It can be difficult to adapt to your new diet, as you cannot eat the same foods anymore. Be sure to talk to your doctor about any of the changes you have questions about. Discuss with your doctor any previous experiences with substance use.

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