Could Semaglutide treat addiction as well as obesity?

Could glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1) receptor agonists such as semaglutide — approved as Ozempic to treat type 2 diabetes and as Wegovy to treat obesity, also curb addictions and compulsive behaviors?

As demand for semaglutide for weight loss grew following the approval of Wegovy by the US Food and Drug Administration in 2021, anecdotal reports of unexpected potential added benefits began to surface. Some patients taking these drugs for type 2 diabetes or weight loss also lost interest in addictive and compulsive behaviors such as drinking alcohol, smoking, shopping, nail biting, and skin picking, as reported in articles in the New York Times and The Atlantic among others.

There has also been some preliminary research to support these observations. In one study, heavy drinking days and total alcohol intake were significantly reduced in the subgroup of patients with AUD and obesity. The participants were also shown pictures of alcohol or neutral subjects while they underwent functional magnetic resonance imaging. Compared with placebo, those who had received exenatide had significantly less activation of brain reward centers when shown the pictures of alcohol.

“Something is happening in the brain and activation of the reward center is hampered by the GLP-1 compound,” Fink-Jensen, a clinical psychologist at the Psychiatric Centre Copenhagen, Denmark, remarked in an email.

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