MASSDEVICE ON CALL — Patients that underwent weight-loss surgery had a 50% rise in rates of substance abuse after 2 years, according to results from a survey-based study of more than 150 patients.
Researchers suggested that the patients may have been trading one habit for another, a theory called "symptom substitution, after finding that 1 in 8 patients reported using recreation drugs 2 years after the procedure, up from 1 in 25 before weight-loss surgery.
In addition, patients who drank and smoked prior to their surgery increased those activities in the 2 years following, ABC News reported.
"Many people who undergo bariatric surgery struggle with eating in response to different emotional cues," according to lead author Alexis Conason of the New York Obesity Nutrition Research Center. "If they are no longer able to cope with their emotions through eating … do they turn to something like drugs or alcohol to serve the purpose that food did originally?"
The researchers warned that more research was needed to strengthen the validity of the theory, while others speculated that the increase in substance abuse may tie to a rise in social behavior following weight-loss.
"The emerging body of literature is in its infancy," Conason said. "It’s going to be important to see how this is replicated with larger samples."
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