Ozempic, Wegovy weight loss drugs could help reduce alcohol use disorder symptoms: study

The recent weight loss boom may also help people control their drinking.

Semaglutide treatments such as Ozempic and Wegovy have been shown to reduce symptoms of alcohol use disorder (AUD), according to a study published Nov. 27 in The Journal of Clinical Psychiatry.

A joint study by the University of Oklahoma (OU) and Oklahoma State University (OSU) found “significant and notable reductions” in Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test (AUDIT) scores in six patients treated with semaglutide for weight loss. It turned out that it was.

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The study's lead author, Dr. Jesse Richards, director of obesity medicine and assistant professor of medicine at the Osaka University School of Community Medicine, said the study was inspired by conversations with Dr. Kyle Simmons, professor of pharmacology and physiology at the OSU Center for Community Medicine. He said he got it. For health sciences.

“We heard from quite a few patients that their alcohol intake was naturally decreasing. [they were] As far as medication,” Richards told FOX News Digital.

Semaglutide treatments, such as Ozempic and Wigovy, have been shown to reduce symptoms of alcohol use disorder, according to a new study published in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry. (Photo; Sebastian Bozon/AFP via Getty Images)

As an employee of a bariatric surgery clinic, Richards noted that it is standard to screen patients for alcohol use.

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At the clinic, many patients tested positive for alcohol consumption, and in some cases were found to have consumed alarming amounts of alcohol.

Subsequently, while on semaglutide medication, they reported decreased alcohol intake.

Jesse Richards OU Health

Dr. Jesse Richards is director of obesity medicine at OU Health at the Hardesty Center for Clinical Research and Neuroscience in Tulsa, Oklahoma. “I've heard from quite a few patients that their alcohol intake naturally decreased while they were taking the medication,” he told Fox News Digital. (Osaka Prefectural Health)

One of Richards' patients, who used to drink a lot of alcohol, said he could no longer drink more than two cans of beer because “it just doesn't taste good.”

This response sparked Richards' interest in learning more about alcohol aversion in patients, which directly related to his research.

Only about 2% of people with alcohol use disorder receive approved treatment.

Research shows that this effect is “mediated through modulation of reward pathways in the brain.”

“GLP-1 actually alters dopamine, which reduces cravings and reduces motivation to obtain things in that compulsive consumption category.”

man drinks from a bottle

“Reducing intake of liquid sugar and liquid calories is strongly associated with effective weight loss,” experts told Fox News Digital. (St. Petersburg)

Richards said the most surprising takeaway from the study was that similar significant therapeutic responses were seen at very low doses.

“We found that even patients taking the lowest dose of semaglutide (a quarter milligram) began to reduce their alcohol intake quite significantly and relatively quickly,” he said.

Of the six patients studied, all but one were taking low doses of the drug, ranging from 1/4 milligram to 0.5 milligram.

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“And we know that lower doses of these drugs are much better tolerated, so that's very encouraging,” Richards said.

Although the results look promising, doctors said they are not recommending semaglutide treatment for alcohol use disorder to patients at this time due to supply and safety issues.

wegovy injection

Wegovy is an injectable prescription weight loss drug that helps people combat obesity. (Michael Silk/UCG/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

“If the patient [obesity and diabetes] They have indications for medication and they also struggle with alcohol consumption… It could potentially be beneficial to have them receive this treatment,” Richards said.

“However, due to global drug shortages, a lack of prospective trials, and the uncertainty of how specific safety compares to well-established safety data for obesity and diabetes, [I] It is not recommended only for patients with AUD. ”

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There are three FDA-approved medications for alcohol use disorder, but they are currently underused, doctors said.

“Unfortunately, only about 2% of people with AUD are currently receiving approved treatments,” he said.

man holding a drink

GLP-1 drugs have no warnings against consuming alcohol while taking them, experts noted. (St. Petersburg)

Given that 5 million people in the United States currently take the drug semaglutide, if these drugs prove to have a significant effect on alcohol use disorder, “by default, It's going to be the most widely used drug because of the fact that so many people are taking it for diabetes and obesity,” Richards said.

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He confirmed that additional research is underway and two clinical trials are underway.

“This bodes very well for this type of drug because we were able to show clinically meaningful reductions in alcohol intake and AUD symptoms in a real-world setting,” he said.

Looking ahead, Richard said higher quality evidence was needed about the impact of the drug on the Australian dollar compared to placebo drugs and environmental factors.

ozempic box

Healthcare providers wrote more than 9 million prescriptions for Ozempic and similar drugs in the final quarter of 2022, according to the data. (Sebastien Bozon/AFP via Getty Images)

It is unclear whether the GLP-1 manufacturer will sell the drug to AUD patients in the future, but Mr Richards said it could become “established medical practice if it is found to be safe and effective”. He said there is.

For patients suffering from AUD, Richards recommended talking to their health care provider about available treatments.

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He also warned patients that they may need to consider a more balanced diet if their appetite has decreased and they are typically consuming “a lot of calories” from alcohol.

Avantika Waring, chief medical officer at 9amHealth and a San Francisco-trained endocrinologist, called the OU and OSU study results further confirmation of what clinicians are “already seeing in practice.” He praised it, he told FOX News Digital.

“People suffering from alcohol use disorder should consult their doctor before starting GLP-1 treatment.”

“GLP-1 drugs have many effects that are yet to be understood, and their ability to reduce craving and reward signals associated with alcohol intake are just some of the benefits,” she said.

“This is an important starting point for further clinical trials,” she added.

Waring also warned that GLP-1 drugs should not be used specifically to treat AUD, as they can cause side effects such as nausea and changes in appetite.

Woman with glass and bottle of wine

Patients' aversion to alcohol is part of the drug's “side-effect-benefit” balance, the study's lead author said. (St. Petersburg)

“People who suffer from alcohol use disorder should talk to their doctor before starting GLP-1 medications to make sure they stay hydrated and can safely undergo treatment,” she says. said.


Dr. Waring said that if ongoing clinical trials show that semaglutide treatment is effective for AUD, the medical community will have “a new tool to help people living with alcohol dependence; “This will likely expand the use of already popular drugs.”

Fox News Digital has requested comment from Novo Nordisk regarding the potential link between semaglutide treatment and alcohol use disorder.

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