A new case study involving human participants found evidence that semaglutide may be an effective treatment for alcohol use disorder.
Weight loss medications like Ozempic and Wegovy are proven to help people lose weight and manage diabetes-related insulin dependence. These medications contain semaglutide, a glucagon-like peptide 1(GLP-1) receptor agonist that reduces hunger, slows gastric emptying, and enhances insulin response.
Yet, in addition to weight loss, some people report experiencing reduced cravings for alcohol while taking the drug. Moreover, one study found that semaglutide lowered alcohol consumption in rats by 50%. Other reports suggest that this weight loss/diabetes medication has potential as an anti-addiction drug.
Still, no studies have looked at whether semaglutide reduces addictive behavior in humans — until now.
The impact of semaglutide on alcohol use
In research published on November 27 in The Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, University of Oklahoma School of Community Medicine and Oklahoma State University Center for Health Sciences researchers conducted a case study on people with alcohol use disorder (AUD) taking semaglutide for weight loss.
They identified six participants who had positive screening results from the Alcohol Use Disorder Identification Test (AUDIT) before taking the weight loss/diabetes drug.
The researchers found that participants' AUDIT scores dropped by an average of 9.5 points after treatment with semaglutide, and the drug significantly reduced their AUD symptoms.
Although randomized, placebo-controlled clinical trials are needed, because of these encouraging results, the study's authors say that drugs like semaglutide may have strong potential as an AUD treatment.
Lead author Dr. Jesse Richards, director of Obesity Medicine and assistant professor of medicine at the OU-TU School of Community Medicine, said, "This research marks a significant step forward in our understanding of the potential therapeutic applications of semaglutide in the field of addiction medicine."
Currently, one Semaglutide Therapy for Alcohol Reduction (STAR) clinical trial is underway investigating how the weight loss drug compares to a placebo in reducing alcohol consumption in people with AUD and whether the medicine is safe and tolerable. Another trial is expected to begin in December.
Still, this case series only included six participants with AUD. So, until the clinical trial results emerge, the researchers say healthcare providers should not use Ozempic, Wegovy, or other semaglutide-based medications to treat AUD. Instead, they should prescribe behavioral interventions and medications FDA approved to treat the disorder.
- The Journal of Clinical Psychiatry. Significant Decrease in Alcohol Use Disorder Symptoms Secondary to Semaglutide Therapy for Weight Loss: A Case Series.
- Oklahoma State University. OSU, OU collaboration finds semaglutide treatment associated with reductions in alcohol use disorder symptoms.