Ozempic Shows Potential for Treating Alcohol Use Disorder

Research conducted in rats found that semaglutide, the active ingredient in the diabetes drugs Ozempic and Wegovy, reduced alcohol intake and prevented the rodents from relapse drinking.

Anecdotal evidence has shown that Ozempic, the diabetes medication also used for weight loss, may not only help people drop unwanted pounds but also curb addictive behavior. For example, some people have reported less compulsive shopping while taking the drug, and others say it caused a complete aversion to alcohol.

A new rodent study, published on June 7 in eBioMedicine, adds more evidence that semaglutide, the glucagon-like peptide1 receptor (GLP-1R) agonist contained in Ozempic and Wegovy, reduces alcohol intake and relapse-like drinking.

To investigate the effects of semaglutide on alcohol consumption, the scientists gave male and female rats alcohol for eight to 10 weeks prior to treating them with the diabetes drug.

While previous research showed that a single injection of a higher dose of semaglutide (0.1 mg/kg) reduced alcohol consumption in male rats, the scientists used lower doses of 0.052 and 0.026 mg/kg in this study.

The team injected the rats with semaglutide or a control 60 minutes before a drinking session and observed the amount of alcohol the rodents consumed.

They found that single and repeated semaglutide injections reduced the amount of alcohol consumed by the rats by as much as 50%.

In addition, after the team deprived the rats of alcohol and reintroduced it later, semaglutide injections reduced relapse drinking.

The scientists note that the effects of semaglutide on drinking were dose-dependent, and a lower dose — which might be associated with fewer side effects — was effective at reducing alcohol intake in the rats.

Further experiments looking at the mechanisms behind these findings showed that semaglutide prevents alcohol's stimulatory and dopamine-enhancing effects. In addition, the diabetes drug combined with alcohol enhances dopamine metabolism within the brain's nucleus accumbens. Moreover, the team found that semaglutide binds to this area in alcohol-drinking rats.

The study authors note that many factors contribute to controlling alcohol consumption, like impulsivity and how someone reacts to stress. Therefore, they suggest future studies should explore whether semaglutide could help alter those factors. In addition, because the research was conducted on rats, further studies are needed to investigate semaglutide's impact on alcohol intake in humans.

Still, these findings add more evidence that semaglutide could be a promising treatment for alcohol use disorder (AUD), particularly in people with overweight or obesity.

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