The search for effective treatments to combat addiction has led scientists to explore various therapeutic strategies. Ozempic and Wegovy recently made headlines for their potential new benefits beyond their original indications — as anti-addiction drugs. Ozempic and Wegovy also help many people who struggle with obesity and weight loss, but they also found that taking Ozempic increased their odds when battling alcohol addiction. This led scientists to test and propose these drugs' potential as anti-addiction medication.
Ozempic and Wegovy are both semaglutide drugs approved for the treatment of type 2 diabetes and long-term weight management in adults with obesity, respectively. Now, more recent data show that they may also be effective for treating addiction.
Ozempic and Wegovy can treat addiction by reducing the brain's reward pathway, which is activated by addictive substances, making them less appealing and helping people resist cravings for compulsive activities like eating, drinking, and smoking.
Neither Ozempic nor Wegovy is yet FDA-approved for the treatment of addiction. Their potential for treating addiction is currently being studied in clinical trials.
Ozempic and Wegovy have the same side effects. For those taking other addiction medications, consulting a doctor about potential use, risks, and contraindications is recommended.
This article delves deeper into the scientific findings on the use of Ozempic and Wegovy as anti-addiction drugs, how they work to treat addiction, their safety concerns, and their potential side effects.
What are Ozempic and Wegovy?
Ozempic and Wegovy are brand names of the same drug, semaglutide, and are traditionally used to treat type 2 diabetes and obesity.
As a glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1) receptor agonist, semaglutide functions by imitating the actions of the GLP-1 hormone — activating the GLP-1 receptor, which thereby helps control blood sugar levels.
By activating GLP-1 receptors, semaglutide boosts insulin secretion, decreases glucagon release, slows gastric emptying, and promotes satiety. In effect, these mechanisms lead to lowering and preventing high blood sugar levels.
Is semaglutide an anti-addiction drug?
An increasing amount of evidence now shows that Ozempic and Wegovy may work as anti-addiction drugs, especially for people with drinking disorders. A study published in Frontiers in Neuroscience found that semaglutide potently decreased alcohol-seeking and consumption in rats. Another study from the Journal of Clinical Investigation also found consistent results that semaglutide is effective in reducing alcohol intake and modulating binge-like alcohol drinking in mice.
Researchers have also examined how lab mice taking different GLP-1 medications can more resist cocaine. Findings show that GLP-1 medications effectively disrupt important cycles of addiction in the rat brain, which helps them escape the grips of dependency.
However, the role of semaglutide in treating human addictions is still anecdotal. An investigation into its potential as a cutting-edge treatment for smokers with alcohol use disorders is being conducted through a clinical trial.
How does semaglutide treat addiction?
Some scientists are thrilled that they could have unintentionally discovered using semaglutide as an anti-addiction medication.
In treating addiction, Ozempic and Wegovy regulate the brain's rewards system through the GLP-1 receptor as well. Findings indicate that GLP-1 is also involved in the dopamine pathways in the brain. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter in the brain with important functions in learning, memory, movement, and reward.
When people use drugs or engage in addictive activities, dopamine levels surge. Ozempic and Wegovy have shown that by activating the GLP-1 receptors, they reduce dopamine levels in the brain region involved in reward and addiction. Thereby lessening the pleasant sensation associated with indulging in addictive behaviors.
Numerous studies using semaglutide for addiction recovery and showing promising findings are anticipated to be released soon.
Are Ozempic and Wegovy safe for treating addiction?
Yes, Ozempic and Wegovy are generally considered safe for most people. However, for treating addiction, safety precautions are still being studied.
Therefore, users should disclose relevant family or personal histories to their doctor, including:
- Hypoglycemia (low blood sugar)
- Kidney disorders
- Gallbladder conditions
- Diabetic retinopathy (diabetes-mediated blood vessel damage in the retina)
Any family or personal history of the conditions listed above may increase the risk of side effects from semaglutide. It is also not advisable for women to use semaglutide when they are pregnant and breastfeeding. In addition, users should inform their doctor of any medications or dietary supplements they're taking to prevent adverse drug interactions.
Are Ozempic and Wegovy FDA-approved?
Yes, Ozempic and Wegovy are FDA-approved semaglutide drugs.
In 2017, the FDA approved Ozempic for use in treating diabetes. In 2021, Wegovy was approved for the treatment of obesity or being overweight and weight-related issues, such as diabetes, high blood pressure, abnormal blood fat levels, breathing problems, obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), or a history of heart attack, stroke or blood vessel problems.
However, multiple studies using semaglutide are still being conducted to obtain FDA approval for addiction recovery.
Side effects of Ozempic and Wegovy
Ozempic and Wegovy are the same drugs; therefore, the side effects are similar. However, most users typically experience few side effects.
Nonetheless, side effects from Ozempic and Wegovy may include:
- Abdominal discomfort
- Injection site reactions
If taken regularly for a long period of time, semaglutide may potentially promote visual loss, heart problems, and nerve damage. Rarely, they can induce severe allergic responses such as skin swelling, most frequently in the lips, eyelids, hands, or feet, as well as edema of the mouth, tongue, or throat, which can make it difficult to breathe.
If you have any negative effects or allergic reactions while using Wegovy or Ozempic, consult your doctor to help manage your condition.
Ozempic and Wegovy are FDA-approved semaglutide drugs for treating type 2 diabetes and obesity. However, recent studies have shown that they may also be effective in treating addiction.
Semaglutide works by reducing the brain's reward pathway, which is activated by addictive substances, making them less appealing and helping people resist cravings. Ozempic and Wegovy are generally safe for most people but can cause some side effects.
Importantly, they are not yet FDA-approved for the treatment of addiction, but clinical trials are underway. If you are considering using Ozempic or Wegovy for addiction, talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits.
Are Ozempic and Wegovy considered safe?
Yes. Ozempic and Wegovy are generally safe for most people, but they are not appropriate for everyone. For example, people diagnosed with type 2 diabetes are permitted to use Ozempic. Whereas, Wegovy is advised only for use in patients who are obese or overweight and who have health concerns that are related to their excess weight.
How do Ozempic and Wegovy work to treat addiction?
Ozempic and Wegovy activate the GLP-1 receptors, which affect the brain's reward center by reducing dopamine surge, thereby blocking the mechanisms of reward and addiction associated with overeating, binge-drinking, cigarette smoking, and others.
Are Ozempic and Wegovy FDA-approved for the treatment of addiction?
No. Despite the FDA's approval of Ozempic and Wegovy for the treatment of type 2 diabetes and obesity, neither is yet FDA-approved for the treatment of addiction. Investigation into their potential as a treatment for addiction is still being conducted through clinical trials.
- Journal of Clinical Investigation. The glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1) analogue semaglutide reduces alcohol drinking and modulates central GABA neurotransmission.
- Frontiers in Neuroscience. Long-Acting Glucagon-Like Peptide-1 Receptor Agonists Suppress Voluntary Alcohol Intake in Male Wistar Rats.
- Physiology & Behavior. Central GLP-1 Receptors: Novel Molecular Targets for Cocaine Use Disorder.
- Neurochemistry International. Glucagon-like peptide-1 receptor regulation of basal dopamine transporter activity is species-dependent.
- British Journal of Pharmacology. The role of glucagon-like peptide 1 (GLP-1) in addictive disorders.
Show all references
- Journal of Obesity & Metabolic Syndrome. Next Generation Antiobesity Medications: Setmelanotide, Semaglutide, Tirzepatide and Bimagrumab: What do They Mean for Clinical Practice?
- Australian Prescriber. Semaglutide for type 2 diabetes.