Social media is abuzz with the possibility that newfangled weight loss drugs can also reduce cravings for alcohol, a new study says.
Across a number of Reddit threads, users of weight-loss drugs like Ozempic reported that they felt less need to drink beer, wine and liquor.
Threads bearing titles like “Did scientists accidentally invent an anti-addiction drug?” and “I don’t know if this is a side effect but … Mounjaro makes me drink less!!!!!” tout the weight-loss drugs’ potential to help folks quit drinking, researchers said.
What’s more, a small study of social media participants with obesity found that they drank less and were less likely to binge if they were on a weight-loss drug.
“These findings add to a growing literature that these medications may curb dangerous drinking habits,” said senior author Warren Bickel in a Virginia Tech news release. Bickel is a behavioral health research professor with the Fralin Biomedical Research Institute at Virginia Tech in Roanoke.
GLP-1 agonists help manage blood sugar levels and reduce the desire to eat by mimicking the action of hormones that the body naturally releases after a meal, researchers said in background notes.
The drugs were developed and initially approved to treat type 2 diabetes, but stronger doses were found to help people effectively lose weight.
The researchers winnowed down the Reddit posts to more than 33,600 from nearly 14,600 unique users. Of those, about 960 individuals made 1,580 alcohol-related posts.
Nearly 72% of the posts mentioned reduced cravings, less drinking, and other effects related to drinking while taking the drugs, researchers said.
As a follow-up, researchers recruited 153 people with obesity from various social media platforms and quizzed them on their drinking.
About a third were taking semaglutide (Ozempic or Wegovy) and another third were taking tirzepatide (Mounjaro, Zepbound). The last third weren’t taking any GLP-1 agonists.
Participants taking the weight-loss drugs drank significantly less alcohol on average than those in the control group, researchers found.
The average number of drinks and the odds of binge drinking were both significantly lower in people taking a GLP-1 agonist, results show.
In addition, those on the drugs reported that they felt less of a buzz from intoxication, researchers say.
“Participants reported drinking less, experienced fewer effects of alcohol when they did drink it, and decreased odds of binge drinking,” co-author Alexandra DiFeliceantonio, an assistant professor at Fralin Biomedical Research Institute, said in the news release.
To date, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved only three medications to treat alcoholism – disulfiram, naltrexone and acamprosate. But these drugs are only moderately effective, researchers said.
They said more study is needed to explore the potential of GLP-1 agonists to treat alcohol use disorder.
“Although evidence supporting the use of these medications for alcohol use disorder is growing, the field still needs to learn considerably more about them, particularly in identifying the underlying mechanisms. We plan to contribute to that effort,” Bickel said.
The findings were recently published in the journal Scientific Reports.
Tufts University has more about Ozempic and Wegovy.
SOURCE: Virginia Tech, news release, Jan. 8, 2024
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