It seems like every day there is a new report on Ozempic, with different side effects than were originally on the label. This time, NBC reported, it’s related to addiction: People who take Ozempic, or its sister medication, Wegovy, containing semaglutide, are finding that they have fewer cravings for a drink, a smoke, or even a lotto ticket purchase.
Let’s first clarify though, that Ozempic and other drugs containing the active ingredient semaglutide are designed to stabilize insulin regulation and blood sugar levels, and were not originally marketed for weight loss or addiction treatment. But what’s going on in the brain that might be helping people feel like they can face their daily or long-term addictions? According to Dr. Roshini Raj, an internist whom TODAY consulted for their report, semaglutide blunts the feeling of pleasure (through the neurotransmitter dopamine) from food, for example, making people feel fuller faster and stopping hunger from coming on.
That could also apply to other things. There hasn’t been enough research done in humans yet, but a study published in the journal Physiology and Behavior tested the same type of drug on mice with addiction-like behaviors for a potential treatment for cocaine use disorder. The results were promising, in that the researchers were able to conclude that the drug helped to regulate the mice’s behavior and helped decrease their dopamine response – making them feel less of a high when exposed to stimulant drugs or nicotine.
There is a potential for the results to transfer over into human behavior.
What’s the hype around Ozempic in the first place?
Ozempic was approved in 2017 for people diagnosed with Type II diabetes but is now increasingly being used off-label for weight loss. People are buying it online to use as an appetite suppressant, resulting in a shortage for people with diabetes who need the drug for medical purposes, SheKnows previously reported. While the FDA did approve higher-dose injection Wegovy as a treatment for obesity in June 2021, it can be dangerous for the general public to diet this way.
Overall, the widespread use of Ozempic in a way other than it’s prescribed contributes to a harmful diet culture that can be triggering for people with a history of disordered eating.