Addiction Transference and Lap-Band Surgery

It's easy to trade another addiction for your food addiction

With more than 135,000 weight loss surgeries being performed in the United States annually, it's very easy to settle your sole focus on the benefits of having such a surgery. The three major types of bariatric surgeries that treat obesity include Lap-Band, Gastric Band, and Gastric-Bypass surgery. All three of these have their pros and cons with the major advantage of all of them being increased weight loss and a better quality of life. However, there are also a range of other problems associated with having these types of bariatric surgeries. For example, rehospitalizations following Lap-Band surgery or one of the other weight loss surgeries are common, internal bleeding, infections, as well as problems associated with the strict diet that one must adhere to following a weight loss surgery are all common. However, one of the major problems that researchers and psychologists have just begun to identify is addiction transference.

Addiction Transference Prevalence

Addiction transference is a problem in which those who undergo Lap-Band or another bariatric surgery develop some form of addiction in the months and years following the procedure. The three most common types of addiction problems that patients of weight loss surgery face include gambling, compulsive shopping, as well as alcohol addictions. Authorities on bariatric and obesity surgeries, however, are not in agreement with the prevalence of these types of addiction transference cases and research is still needed to identify the prevalence. For example, the American Society for Bariatric Surgery estimates that only about 5% of individuals develop this problem. On the other hand, U.S. Bariatric, a major weight loss surgery center in Florida, puts the number at 20% or above.

Theories behind Addiction Transference

When it comes to asking the "why" question of addiction transference in those who have completed a Lap-Band or other weight loss surgery, there are several leading theories. The first theory that has been initially proposed is the idea that patients develop addiction transference in order to fill the "void" that is no longer there because of their treated obesity. However, as more research begins to take shape scientists and psychologists alike have found support for the theory that the major addictive pathway in the brain that is responsible for alcohol and cocaine dependency is also responsible for obesity problems.

In addition to all of this new information, it should also be noted that it's important not to establish a causal relationship between Lap-Band and other bariatric surgeries and the addiction transference problems that many patients experience. Treating obesity through a weight loss surgery does not necessarily mean that one would experience a compulsive disorder or other type of addiction. It simply means that obesity surgeries essentially uncover another type of problem that may be going on in the brain, such as an abnormal level of dopamine that has been found in those patients that do develop addiction transference. In addition, researchers have suggested that obesity essentially acts as a cover or type of prevention for other major addictions such as those to alcohol, gambling, or even cocaine.

Preventing and Treating Addiction Transference

The need for obesity patients to know the risks of weight loss surgery and even the warning signs of addiction transference is absolutely present! Doctors are obliged to tell their patients about these associated risks with bariatric procedures, including this new area of research that is being studied. As a way of prevention, some psychologists and other researchers have suggested that neuroimaging could be performed on a patient of Lap-Band, Gastric Band, or Gastric-Bypass surgery to determine if abnormal levels of dopamine exist before the surgery takes place. In this way doctors and psychologists could start preparing and even treating them for the potential addiction problems before the surgery occurs.

Following weight loss surgery procedures, there are several routes that a patient can take if he or she has determined with the help of a psychologist or physician that addiction transference exists. First, extensive counseling and psychotherapy should be included in any course of treatment that is provided. Second, medication is probably going to be in that patient's treatment routine as well. A few examples of medication that researchers are seriously looking at to treat addiction transference as a result of Lap-Band surgery and other weight loss surgeries include Topamax, Bupropian, and Rimonabant.

All things considered, addiction transference is definitely a serious problem that obese patients and doctors alike need to face in order to be successful with any type of bariatric and weight loss surgery. Focusing in on whether someone is at risk for addiction transference is necessary as well as exploring treatment options after the procedure. Above all, however, more research definitely needs to be conducted in this psychological area so that obesity surgery patients can make informed decisions and get the proper help needed!