A recent story from ABC News reminds me of an emerging side effect of bariatric surgery: cross addiction.
Cross addiction is when a person trades one addiction for another. Sometimes, cross-addiction is considered harmless. If you kick heroin, a two-pack-a-day cigarette habit pales in comparison.
The ABC News story focuses on one woman's shopping addiction, which put her in financial peril. Other addictions bariatric patients need to watch out for include sex, alcohol and drugs. Those addictions are troubling because they bring other health concerns along with them. Sex addiction can lead to sexually transmitted diseases, unwanted pregnancy and even issues with self-esteem and depression. Alcohol can irritate the gastric pouch, leading to ulceration and limited absorption of nutrients -- not to mention the risks of losing one's job or family. Drug addiction -- depending on the drug -- also can lead to a variety of health problems and concerns.
The most important thing surgical weight loss patients can do to avoid cross-addiction is to be wary of it. Knowing that it's a danger is the first step. Being self-aware is the next. If you feel that you might be slipping into a cross-addiction, seek out help. Find an addiction specialist in your area -- one that has familiarity with food addiction is best -- and work with him or her to develop healthy coping mechanisms.