Ozempic and Wegovy can curb alcohol consumption and smoking: What we know

An Ozempic (semaglutide) injection pen is seen on a kitchen table in Riga, Latvia, August 6, 2023.

Jaap Arriens | Photo only | Getty Images

Heather Le Biller lost 9 pounds within the first week of taking it Novo Nordisks blockbuster diabetes drug Ozempic – and then even more so as she continued treatment.

Le Biller, a flight attendant living in France, noticed that her appetite decreased while taking it weekly injection. But also her desire for wine, a drink that, in her opinion, “almost goes with every dinner” in France.

“When I was at Ozempic, I didn’t want it as much,” Le Biller told CNBC. “I could have a few sips of wine and just be happy and carry on. I didn’t need multiple glasses a night, so it definitely seems to help with that.”

Le Biller is among several patients who took diabetes and weight-loss medications and also noticed an effect on their cravings for alcohol, nicotine, opioids or even some compulsive behaviors such as online shopping and gambling.

These drugs — including Ozempic and its weight-loss counterpart from Novo Nordisk, Wegovy — are called GLP-1 agonists, which mimic a hormone produced in the intestines to suppress a person’s appetite.

These anecdotal reports add to the growing list of potential GLP-1 benefits beyond shedding unwanted pounds. Dramatic weight loss is the main reason these drugs are gaining popularity in the US, even though they can cost around $100 $1,000 a month and some health insurers have stopped covering costs altogether.

“We prescribe these medications and view this effect as a secondary benefit to patients. One of my patients even said that he doesn’t shop online as much, which helps his wallet,” said Dr. Angela Fitch, an obesity medication doctor and president of the Obesity Medicine Association. This group is the largest organization of doctors, nurses and other health care providers dedicated to the treatment of obesity.

A customer drinks a glass of wine at It’s Italian Cucina restaurant on April 5, 2023 in Austin, Texas. A new analysis of more than 40 years of research has found that moderate alcohol consumption has no health benefits.

Brandon Bell | Getty Images

This striking effect of GLP-1 is not a new idea. Several studies have shown that certain GLP-1s reduce alcohol consumption in rodents and monkeys. More research needs to be done, particularly in humans, to prove that the drugs have this effect. That means it could be years before the Food and Drug Administration and other regulators around the world approve drugs like Ozempic and Wegovy as addictive drugs.

Manufacturers such as Novo Nordisk said they would not pursue this research.

“Pharma has this general disinterest in investing in the addiction space,” which is due to a variety of factors, including the high stigma attached to addiction among physicians, physicians, and even patients, according to Dr. Lorenzo Leggio, clinical director of the National Institute on Substance Abuse or NIDA.

Leggio and other scientists are working to fill this gap—and have already made progress in confirming GLP-1’s potential as an addictive drug.

What do we know so far?

Scientists have published nearly a dozen studies shows how GLP-1s stop binge drinking in rats and mice, reduce their cravings for alcohol, prevent relapse in addicted animals, and reduce overall alcohol consumption.

Previous studies have looked at older, less potent GLP-1 receptors such as exenatide, a drug approved for diabetes under the names Byetta and Bydureon.

But recent studies on semaglutide – the generic name for Ozempic and Wegovy – and another drug from Eli Lilly According to pharmacologist Elisabet Jerlhag, the compounds called dulaglutide “show the most promise” because they reduced alcohol consumption in animals by 60 to 80%.

Studies have also shown that when rats stop taking dulaglutide, which is approved for diabetes under the name Trulicity, “it takes weeks for them to start drinking again,” she said.

Jerlhag and her colleagues at the University of Gothenburg in Sweden have been studying the effects of GLP-1 on addictive behavior for more than a decade.

Boxes of the drug Trulicity, manufactured by Eli Lilly and Company, stand on a counter at a pharmacy in Provo, Utah, January 9, 2020.

George Frey | Reuters

Other animal studies have also found that GLP-1 drugs reduce consumption nicotineCocaine, heroin and amphetamines.

Few human studies have been conducted, but six clinical trials are currently underway examining how semaglutide can change people’s drinking and smoking habits.

The reason for this anti-addictive effect of GLP-1, according to NIDA’s Leggio, is that these drugs also affect the brain and not just the gut.

“The mechanism in the brain that regulates overeating is also important in regulating addictive behaviors,” Leggio told CNBC. “There are clear common overlaps. Therefore, it is possible that the drugs help people with addiction problems by acting on this specific mechanism.”

According to Dr. Steven Batash, a gastroenterologist who offers non-surgical weight loss procedures in Queens, New York, GLP-1 fatty acids specifically decrease the amount of dopamine the brain releases after people engage in behaviors like drinking, smoking, or even eating one have given in to sweet desserts.

Batash said dopamine is a neurotransmitter that “enhances the pleasure” of engaging in these activities. When GLP-1s take away your pleasure, they also eliminate the motivation to do those activities.

What needs further research?

Still, NIDA’s Leggio advises against using GLP-1s off-label to reduce addictive behaviors “simply because there is insufficient evidence that they work in humans.”

“The animal studies are very promising and what people are reporting is very, very important, but as a scientist I can tell you that’s not enough,” he told CNBC.

Leggio said scientists need to do more double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled research studies in humans — or studies where both participants and researchers are unaware of who is being randomly selected to receive a placebo or an actual drug. Such studies are “the gold standard” for proving whether or not a treatment produces a particular effect, he added

But even if these studies confirm that GLP-1 can reduce addictive behavior in humans, “it will most likely work in some patients and not in others,” Leggio said.

“In fact, we already know that these drugs, and all drugs as a whole, don’t work for everyone,” he said.

The Good Brigade | digital vision | Getty Images

For example the clinical study only This area investigated the suitability of exenatide in comparison to cognitive behavioral therapy for the treatment of alcohol use disorders in humans.

However, this 2022 study found that exenatide reduced alcohol consumption in a subset of participants with obesity, while the drug actually increased alcohol consumption in people without obesity.

This could be because “leaner patients” treated with exenatide experienced a greater drop in blood sugar, which could be associated with increased alcohol cravings, the researchers write in the study.

But even this conclusion needs to be confirmed by further research.

It is also unclear how long the anti-addiction effects of GLP-1 last. That’s already a complaint from patients when it comes to weight loss: People who lose weight after taking Ozempic or Wegovy tend to regain most of it — or even more — within a few years.

“It’s possible that some people will relapse and go back to drinking heavily if they stop taking the medication,” Leggio said. He added that some patients require ongoing treatment because addiction is a chronic disease.

However, Leggio said there is “nothing wrong” with a patient taking GLP-1 to treat diabetes or obesity alongside an addiction.

“If you’re looking to see if Ozempic is helping you better control your blood sugar but also helping you drink, that’s wonderful. You kill two birds with one stone,” Leggio said. “But if the only reason you want to take the drug is because you’re drinking or smoking, then you should wait for more evidence.”

It may be years, but scientists and other health professionals are hoping that a new class of treatments for alcohol addiction, smoking, and other addictive behaviors is on the horizon.

“It may be that in three, four, five years you and I will be saying that GLP-1 agonists are wonderful for treating mild diabetes, wonderful for losing weight, and maybe we’ll also be saying that they’re wonderful for controlling it “Addictive behavior,” Batash told CNBC.

But even if GLP-1 is approved to treat addiction, it’s unclear how many people would take it. recording from existing medication because the addiction is already low. In 2019, approximately 14 million American adults suffered from alcohol addiction — a disorder associated with uncontrolled drinking. But only 1.6% used any of the three FDA-approved drugs for the condition.

https://www.cnbc.com/2023/09/10/ozempic-wegovy-drinking-smoking-what-we-know.html Ozempic and Wegovy can curb alcohol consumption and smoking: What we know


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