Ozempic drug may add addiction treatment to its growing list of uses
New research has found that patients taking the weight-loss and diabetes drug semaglutide had significantly reduced symptoms of alcohol use disorder. Although the study was small, larger studies are underway with the potential to lead to the use of drugs like semaglutide to treat addiction.
It’s fair to say that semaglutide, sold variously as Ozempic, Mounjaro and Wegovy, has taken the world by storm. Initially developed as a treatment to manage blood sugar levels in type 2 diabetics, early testing of the drug demonstrated a positive side effect – weight loss – which led to its remarketing. And a recent study found that semaglutide also provided heart benefits to overweight non-diabetics.
New research suggests that semaglutide may have another potential benefit. A collaboration between the University of Oklahoma (OU) Tulsa and the Oklahoma State University (OSU) Center for Health Sciences found that patients taking semaglutide for weight loss also showed a significant reduction in symptoms of alcohol use disorder (AUD).
“This research marks a significant step forward in our understanding of the potential therapeutic applications of semaglutide in the field of addiction medicine,” said Jesse Richards, the study’s lead author.
Using a retrospective chart review, the researchers identified six patients treated with semaglutide for weight loss who also had positive screening for AUD on the Alcohol Use Disorder Identification Test (AUDIT) before starting semaglutide therapy. AUDIT is a World Health Organization-approved 10-item questionnaire used to screen for problem drinking. Possible scores range from zero (an abstainer who’s never had any problems with alcohol) to 40, with scores between eight and 14 suggesting hazardous or harmful alcohol consumption and a score of 15 or more indicating the likelihood of AUD.
All six patients had a significant reduction in AUD symptoms based on AUDIT score improvement, with a mean decrease of 9.5 points following semaglutide treatment.
Pre-clinical trials on rats and monkeys demonstrated that semaglutide was associated with a decrease in drug and alcohol consumption, and anecdotally, many patients taking the drug report a decrease in the urge to drink. However, there have been no randomized clinical trials associating a decline in AUD symptoms with semaglutide use.
Evidence from the current study has led to a placebo-controlled clinical trial, Semaglutide Therapy for Alcohol Reduction (STAR), currently underway at the OSU Hardesty Center for Clinical Research and Neuroscience in Tulsa, with a sister study being run in Baltimore.
“With the publication of this case series in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, the stage is set for future clinical trials, such as the STAR studies, which can definitively tell us whether semaglutide is safe and effective for treatment of alcohol use disorder,” said Kyle Simmons, corresponding author of the study.
The findings open the door to using drugs such as semaglutide in the treatment of addictive behaviors.
The study was published in The Journal of Clinical Psychiatry.
Source: OU Tulsa