Ozempic, Wegovy might curb consuming, smoking and different addictive behaviors – here is what we all know

An Ozempic (semaglutide) injection pen is seen on a kitchen desk in Riga, Latvia on 06 August, 2023. 

Jaap Arriens | Nurphoto | Getty Images

Heather Le Biller shed 9 kilos throughout the first week of taking Novo Nordisk‘s blockbuster diabetes drug Ozempic – after which much more as she continued remedy. 

Le Biller, a flight attendant who lives in France, seen her urge for food cool down whereas taking the weekly injection. But so did her cravings for wine, a drink she known as “nearly customary to pair with each dinner” in France. 

“When I used to be on Ozempic, it made me not need that as a lot anymore,” Le Biller informed CNBC. “I may have a couple of sips of wine and simply be happy and transfer on. I did not want a number of glasses an evening, so it positively appears to assist with that.” 

Le Biller is amongst a number of sufferers who took diabetes and weight reduction medication and in addition seen an impact on their cravings for alcohol, nicotine, opioids and even some compulsive behaviors, resembling on-line buying and playing.

Those medication – together with Ozempic and its weight reduction counterpart from Novo Nordisk, Wegovy – are known as GLP-1 agonists, which mimic a hormone produced within the intestine to suppress an individual’s urge for food. 

These anecdotal reviews add to the rising checklist of potential advantages of GLP-1s past shedding undesirable kilos. Dramatic weight reduction is the first motive why these medication have skyrocketed in reputation within the U.S., even if they will value round $1,000 a month and a few well being insurers have stopped overlaying them altogether. 

“We’re prescribing these medication and seeing this impact as a secondary profit in sufferers. One of my sufferers even mentioned they are not doing as a lot on-line buying, which helps their pockets,” mentioned Dr. Angela Fitch, an weight problems drugs doctor and president of the Obesity Medicine Association. That group is the most important group of physicians, nurse practitioners and different health-care suppliers devoted to treating weight problems. 

A buyer drinks a glass of wine on the It’s Italian Cucina restaurant on April 05, 2023 in Austin, Texas. A brand new evaluation of greater than 40 years of gathered analysis has discovered that reasonable consuming has no well being advantages. 

Brandon Bell | Getty Images

This placing impact of GLP-1s is not a brand new concept. Several studies have demonstrated that sure GLP-1s curb alcohol consumption in rodents and monkeys. More analysis must be carried out, notably on people, to show that the medication have that impact. That means it may take years earlier than the Food and Drug Administration and different regulators worldwide approve medication like Ozempic and Wegovy as dependancy remedies. 

Manufacturers like Novo Nordisk mentioned they don’t seem to be pursuing that analysis.

“Pharma has this basic lack of curiosity in investing within the dependancy subject” attributable to an ideal storm of things, together with the excessive stigma round dependancy problems amongst medical doctors, physicians and even sufferers, in accordance with Dr. Lorenzo Leggio, medical director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, or NIDA.

Leggio and different scientists are working to fill the hole – and have already made strides towards confirming the potential of GLP-1s as dependancy remedies.

What do we all know up to now?

Scientists have revealed almost a dozen studies exhibiting how GLP-1s cease binge consuming in rats and mice, cut back their need for alcohol, forestall relapse in addicted animals and reduce alcohol consumption total. 

Earlier research have examined older, much less potent GLP-1s resembling exenatide, a drug permitted for diabetes underneath the names Byetta and Bydureon. 

But more moderen research on semaglutide – the generic title for Ozempic and Wegovy – and one other drug from Eli Lilly known as dulaglutide “are essentially the most promising” as a result of they lowered alcohol consumption in animals by 60% to 80%, in accordance with pharmacologist Elisabet Jerlhag. 

Studies have additionally proven that rats that cease taking dulaglutide, which is permitted for diabetes underneath the title Trulicity, “take weeks earlier than they begin consuming once more,” she mentioned.

Jerlhag and her colleagues on the University of Gothenburg in Sweden have studied the impact of GLP-1s on addictive behaviors for greater than a decade. 

Boxes of the drug trulicity, made by Eli Lilly and Company, sit on a counter at a pharmacy in Provo, Utah, January 9, 2020.

George Frey | Reuters

Other research on animals have additionally discovered that GLP-1 medication cut back the consumption of nicotine, cocaine, heroin and amphetamines. 

Few research have been carried out on people, however six medical trials at the moment are underway investigating how semaglutide might alter individuals’s consuming and smoking habits. 

The motive behind this anti-addiction impact of GLP-1s is that these medication additionally have an effect on the mind, not simply the intestine, in accordance with NIDA’s Leggio. 

“The mechanism within the mind that regulates overeating is vital in regulating addictive behaviors as properly,” Leggio informed CNBC. “There is a transparent shared overlap. So it is doable that the drugs might assist individuals with dependancy by performing on that particular mechanism.”

GLP-1s particularly lower the quantity of dopamine the mind releases after individuals take pleasure in behaviors like consuming, smoking and even consuming a candy dessert, in accordance with Dr. Steven Batash, a gastroenterologist who offers nonsurgical weight reduction procedures in Queens, New York. 

Batash mentioned dopamine is a neurotransmitter that “reinforces the pleasure” of doing these actions. When GLP-1s take away that pleasure, in addition they get rid of the motivation to do these actions. 

What wants extra analysis?

Still, NIDA’s Leggio advises in opposition to utilizing GLP-1s off-label to cut back addictive behaviors, “just because there’s not sufficient proof in people that they work.” 

“The animal research are very promising and what individuals are reporting may be very, essential, however as a scientist, I may also let you know that that is not sufficient,” he informed CNBC. 

Leggio mentioned scientists must conduct extra double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled studies on people – or trials the place each contributors and researchers do not know who’s getting randomly chosen to obtain a placebo or an precise drug. Those varieties of research are “the gold normal” for proving whether or not a remedy achieves a sure impact or not, he added

But even when these trials verify that GLP-1s can cut back addictive behaviors in people, “it should most probably work for some sufferers and never others,” in accordance with Leggio. 

“We already know, as a matter of truth, that these drugs and any drug total don’t work for everyone,” he mentioned. 

The Good Brigade | Digitalvision | Getty Images

For instance, the only clinical study on this space investigated whether or not exenatide may deal with alcohol use dysfunction in individuals, as in contrast with cognitive behavioral remedy.

But that 2022 research discovered that exenatide lowered consuming in a subgroup of contributors who had weight problems, whereas the drug really elevated consuming in individuals who did not. 

The motive could also be that “leaner sufferers” handled with exenatide skilled a bigger lower in blood sugar, which may be related to elevated cravings for alcohol, the researchers wrote within the research.

But even that conclusion must be confirmed with additional analysis. 

It’s additionally unclear how lengthy the anti-addiction impact of GLP-1s will final. That’s already one grievance sufferers have in terms of weight reduction: People who shed weight after taking Ozempic or Wegovy have a tendency to realize most of it – or much more – again inside a couple of years. 

“It’s doable that some individuals will relapse and return to heavy consuming in the event that they stopped taking the remedy,” Leggio mentioned. He added that some sufferers will want fixed remedy as a result of dependancy is a continual illness. 

However, Leggio mentioned there’s “nothing flawed” with a affected person searching for GLP-1s to deal with diabetes or weight problems, along with an dependancy dysfunction. 

“If you wish to see whether or not Ozempic will aid you higher management the sugar in your blood but additionally aid you along with your consuming, that is fantastic. Killing two birds with one stone,” Leggio mentioned. “But if the one motive you wish to take the drug is due to your alcohol or smoking, then you need to await extra proof.” 

It might take years, however scientists and different well being consultants hope {that a} new class of remedies for alcohol use dysfunction, smoking and different addictive behaviors is on the horizon. 

“It could also be that three, 4 or 5 years from now, you and I are going to say that GLP-1 agonists are fantastic for treating gentle diabetes, fantastic for weight reduction, and maybe we may also say that they’re fantastic for curbing addictive behaviors,” Batash informed CNBC.

But even when GLP-1s get permitted to deal with dependancy, it is unclear how many individuals would take them. Uptake of existing medications for dependancy is already low. About 14 million American adults had alcohol use dysfunction – a illness related to uncontrolled consuming – as of 2019. But only one.6% used any of the three FDA-approved medication for the situation. 

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