General Health

Scientists Reveal the Ozempic Side Effect Nobody Saw Coming

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Originally developed to control diabetes, Ozempic has been prescribed in recent years by doctors for weight loss .. and it’s caused it’s fair share of controversy.  But did you know that recently Ozempic has been used in trials to treat another common and concerning condition – and the results have been nothing short of spectacular! 

Ozempic as a treatment for addiction

Ozempic works by stimulating the production of insulin to keep blood sugar levels in check. It also reduces appetite and craving for food, which is why it’s now used for weight loss. However, Ozempic may also reduce the desire to drink, smoke or take other drugs, with many Ozempic users reporting they no longer crave alcohol or other drugs while taking the medication.

And it’s all down to Ozempic’s active ingredient, Semaglutide, which works on glucagon-like peptide-1 receptors, known as a “GLP-1 agonist”. 

Ozempic decrease in cravings for alcohol and food

US woman Megan Johnston told CBS News that since starting the drug for weight loss seven months ago, not only has she lost 45 lbs (20.4 kg), she has gone from around 15 standard drinks a week to an average of 3 standard drinks per week

Like many, Megan admits that she gained excess weight and started drinking more since the pandemic. This is something that has impacted a large number of people with 1 in 4 admitting to drinking more now than before the pandemic.

The increase in alcohol consumption continues to be a major problem. According to HealthDirect, 1 in 4 Australians drink alcohol at risky levels and 1 in 20 Australians has an addiction or substance abuse problem.

ozempic weight loss drug to treat addition
Source: Adobe Stock

Hopeful for Ozempic as an addiction treatment

Kyle Simmons, the director of Oklahoma State University’s Biomedical Imaging Center is very hopeful about Ozempic being used to treat addiction.

“If it turns out that this medication is safe and effective for treating addiction, just by dint of how many people are already taking these medications for other purposes, this would become really the largest and most widely used pharmacotherapy for addiction medicine that’s ever been developed.” 

There are already medications available to treat alcohol addiction which include acamprosate (Cambral), naltrexone and disultiram (Antabuse) but they are ‘”rarely prescribed” according to the NIH. 

Ozempic weight loss drug
Source: Adobe Stock

Ozempic addiction treatment studies underway

With Semaglutide taking away the rewarding value of drugs, on top of the existing clinical trials underway, there have also been studies in animals to determine if this can be an option for addiction treatment too. 

So far in animal studies, both rodents and monkeys responded very positively to Semaglutide as a treatment for addiction.

Human trials, however, haven’t been quite as clear. 

In one study of 127 people, both those taking a GLP-1 agonist and those taking the placebo drug reduced their drinking for the short term.

There was no difference between the GLP-1 agonist and the placebo.

The study also concluded that the treatment may be dependent on weight. Clinicians found there was a reduction in drinking for people who had both alcohol use problems and obesity, but not in those who started at a normal weight of BMI less than 30. 

alcohol addiction treatment ozempic
Source: Adobe Stock

Another study found that the GLP-1 agonist dulaglutide did not help to reduce smoking but it did help reduce alcohol intake. Over 90 per cent of people in this study also had obesity.

There have also been smaller studies looking at GLP-1 agonists as a treatment for cocaine and opioid addiction with mixed results. 

While the drug affects the brain and appears to remove the pleasure received from drinking alcohol, Kyle Simmons admits there needs to be a lot more research. 

“We just don’t know yet whether or not the medication is safe and effective for the treatment of alcohol use disorder.”

Ozempic comes with a wide risk of side effects.

In addition to taking away food and potentially alcohol cravings, it can also cause nausea, stomach pain, constipation, diarrhea and vomiting.

Rarer but more serious side effects of Ozempic may include thyroid tumours, pancreatitis, changes in vision, hypoglycemia, gallbladder issues, kidney failure and cancer.

It’s also unclear how these drugs might affect people after long-term use.

What to read next

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Avatar of Jenna Galley

Born and raised in Canada, Jenna now lives in Far North Queensland with her tribe. When the mum-of-three is not writing, you can find her floating in the pool, watching princess movies, frolicking on the beach, bouncing her baby to sleep or nagging her older kids to put on their pants.

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