- Some Ozempic users report that the drug has helped them control addictive behaviors like drinking.
- In testimonials shared online, some users claim they no longer feel the same desire for habits like smoking, drinking alcohol, and gambling.
- Current research on the addiction-curbing effects of GLP-1 drugs like Ozempic is limited to animal models.
- Some theories suggest that Ozempic may reduce addictive behaviors by altering the brain’s pleasure and reward centers.
Ozempic, a medication used to treat type 2 diabetes, has been making headlines in recent times for its weight loss benefits.
Some reports have suggested that GLP-1 drugs such as Ozempic could help curb alcohol use and other addictive behaviors.
The drugs impact appetite and satiety, but some users say taking the medication has not only reduced their urge to eat, but curtailed their desire to smoke, gamble, and drink alcohol as well.
In numerous testimonials shared on social media platforms like TikTok, users of the drug are saying the desire to partake in these activities was simply no longer there once they began taking the medication.
The link between GLP-1 drugs like Ozempic and Wegovy and claims of reduced addictive behaviors may lie in the relationship between the gut and the brain.
“There is a strong connection between our brains and our digestive system with millions of messages being sent backward and forwards every day,” Gareth Nye, PhD, senior lecturer of anatomy and physiology and program lead for BMedSci Medical Science course at the University of Chester, England, told Healthline.
“The brain has a number of centers with GLP receptors. These usually tell the brain that you have food in your digestive system and to stop eating but they have also been linked to reward and addiction properties.”
Ozempic may affect the brain’s pleasure and reward center
Some researchers reason that Ozempic may help curb addiction by making behaviors like drinking alcohol or smoking less rewarding. In particular, drugs like Ozempic may reduce pleasure-seeking activities due to how the medication interacts with dopamine, a neurotransmitter linked with pleasure and reward.
Nye said there are three theories surrounding Ozempic’s reported effects on addiction tendencies.
These include a change of taste and smell senses, which make certain foods and drinks less appealing, a change in the reward triggers in the brain that occur when exposed to a particular habit or substance, and an increased avoidance of certain chemicals, such as the ones found in alcohol and cigarettes, for example.
An important point to note, however, is that much of what we know about the link between Ozempic and addictive behaviors is anecdotal.
The research supporting these claims is incredibly limited and few clinical trials have been conducted to support them.
An animal study published in May 2023 found that drugs like semaglutide reduced alcohol drinking in rodents. However, as of yet, no studies have confirmed the same effect in humans.
“Early human studies have shown the potential for administered GLP-1 agonists to cross the blood-brain barrier and thus they have the potential to interfere with normal brain actions,” Nye points out.
“However, to date, there are scarce numbers of relevant studies to confirm or deny the action GLP-1 drugs like these have on addictive behaviors, although animal studies are promising.”
We don’t know a lot about the long-term use of Ozempic. The existing research only looks at how it affects the body when used as a weight loss tool for up to two years.
This poses an obvious question: What happens when you stop taking Ozempic? Just as you are at risk of regaining the weight you lost, is it possible that your addictive behaviors could also return?
Nye believes this is “highly likely.”
He said, “When people choose to lose weight through any means, it requires a change in their mindset and behaviors. The same is true when overcoming addiction. “As with anything, there is no quick fix or magic cure and there is a requirement for effort and willpower to see lifelong changes for the better.”
Laura Lee Wright, a sober living coach and author of Beyond Sober, agrees. She said, “Addiction is a multi-faceted problem. For example, people who are living with alcohol use disorder may be using alcohol to feel differently than they feel.
“Unless the emotional issues are addressed, removing the substance will do little more than create a dry drunk,” Wright continues. “It’s dangerous to suggest there is a magic pill that can make an addict well.”
Instead, Wright recommends fellowship with other addicts, group therapy, mental and emotional counseling, and residential-focused rehab as effective ways to treat addiction.
“In the thousands of hours of conversation and research I’ve done with recovered addicts, one commonality is daily treatment for the rest of their life,” she noted.
At present, the link between Ozempic and an improvement in addictive patterns is mostly anecdotal and if you are living with addiction, it’s best to seek the support of a medical professional.
While Nye believes these drugs may be an “excellent start” for some people in reducing addictive behaviors, he said their long-term effectiveness is limited.
“Drugs can only work to a certain physiological extent and Ozempic is not specifically targeting addiction. The risk is that users do not change the behaviors associated with addiction,” Nye said.
“Curbing addiction requires a lot of work and is a constant issue that, unfortunately, a drug like this isn’t going to change.”