Some psychiatrists are now prescribing Ozempic to treat weight gain caused by depression and psychosis medications, The New York Times reports.
The use of antipsychotics and other drugs for the treatment of depression and anxiety often causes weight gain. Because increasing weight may lead to other health problems or deter patients from taking psychiatric medications altogether, some psychiatrists now include GLP-1 agonists — type 2 diabetes and weight loss drugs such as Ozempic and Wegovy — in their treatment plans.
The New York Times heard from 13 leading mental health facilities and psychiatric departments at major health systems in the United States.
Six said they were already recommending or prescribing weight-loss drugs to their patients. Seven said they were not ready to do so due to concerns about safety and side effects. They also believe that prescribing weight-loss drugs was beyond their purview.
Some doctors say that people often refuse to start taking psychiatric medications or stop using them due to weight gain. According to a 2019 review, patients gained more than 7% of their body weight on antipsychotics and 5% on certain anti-depressants.
How these medications lead to weight gain is not well understood. Scientists hypothesize that the drugs may increase appetite and slow metabolism.
High body weight can elevate the risk of multiple health conditions, including type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and premature death, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
However, increasing evidence suggests that novel weight-loss drugs also come with risks. A recent study associated the use of GLP-1 agonists with an increased risk of inflammation of the pancreas, bowel obstruction, and stomach paralysis.
Anecdotal reports that the use of GLP-1 agonists caused suicidal thoughts in some patients discourage some psychiatrists from prescribing these medications, they told The New York Times. European regulators are now looking into these reports.
Managing weight while on anti-depressants
Adopting healthy habits can also help patients on psychiatric medications to maintain a healthy weight.
These healthy habits include:
- Eating a healthy diet rich in whole foods, such as fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, nuts, beans, fish, and eggs.
- Limiting the intake of processed foods and added sugars.
- Exercising — adults need 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity a week.
- Reducing stress.
- Having adequate restful sleep.
Engaging in physical activity can also have a positive effect on mental health. A recent study found a 16-week running program to be as effective in reducing depression symptoms as anti-depressants escitalopram or sertraline. However, adherence to running was much lower than to taking medication.
Despite risks, GLP-1 agonists continue to gain in popularity and increase in demand.
- Obesity. Effects of antidepressant and antipsychotic use on weight gain: A systematic review.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Health Effects of Overweight and Obesity.
- Harvard Medical School. Managing weight gain from psychiatric medications.