While it was originally FDA-approved only for the treatment of type 2 diabetes in adults, Ozempic quickly gained notoriety as an off-label weight loss aid. Formulations of semaglutide, the generic name of the active chemical in Ozempic, were subsequently FDA-approved for the treatment of obesity in adult patients with chronic weight difficulties.

Recently, yet another treatment case seemingly unrelated to Ozempic’s original purpose of treating diabetes has begun to enter public discourse. Anecdotes from numerous individuals online have begun to spread in which the Ozempic users note a surprising side effect of their treatment with the drug. Namely, some users have reported that at some point during their Ozempic treatment for diabetes or obesity, they began to notice they were also consuming fewer alcoholic beverages.

Anecdotal evidence should always be taken with a grain of salt, particularly when it comes from the internet. Nevertheless, these reports do raise the question: can Ozempic really help people consume less alcohol?

The Appeal of an Anti-Alcohol Pill

It’s hardly an original observation to note that American society has conflicting views about psychoactive substances. Certain drugs are heavily censured and scandalized, and remain forbidden from the public. Others, like nicotine, caffeine, or alcohol, enjoy quite the opposite treatment – they are heavily normalized, promoted, and even celebrated. You don’t need to watch TV for too long before you’ll inevitably come across a depiction of modern America that features alcohol as a fun, exciting, or even romantic part of life.

However, despite the positive spin that alcohol is given by the media, alcohol is poison. This is not a sensational exaggeration, it’s a scientific fact. Though it can be consumed with little risk at low enough dosages, alcohol is harmful to our bodies, and when consumed in large enough quantities or for  a long enough duration, then many of the body’s major systems can accumulate serious, possibly fatal damage. Liver cirrhosis, obesity, esophageal cancer, and gestational disorders are only a few of the negative ways in which alcohol usage can manifest negatively in the body. It’s no shock that some have estimated that excessive alcohol usage was responsible for 140,000 deaths between 2015 – 2019 alone.

Unfortunately, Americans have proven to be susceptible to the pro-alcohol messaging that steeps the media landscape. More than half of American adults will have consumed alcohol in the past month, with almost a fifth of American adults reporting that they regularly binge drink. Almost 15 million American adults drink so excessively that their alcohol usage meets the threshold of Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD), also known as alcoholism – and that statistic excludes the scores of underage drinkers illegally consuming alcohol regularly.

Unfortunately, quitting alcohol use is notoriously difficult – lifetime recovery rates for AUD sufferers are less than 40% in the US. This is due to many reasons, but a major part of the difficulty in kicking the habit of alcohol use is that it takes an enormous amount of willpower to overcome the very strong urges to seek the rewarding feelings of alcohol usage that many alcoholics experience. A medication that could soften or eliminate these urges would therefore be a game changer.

This all raises the question: could Ozempic be that game-changing drug?

Examining the Evidence

Anecdotes aren’t evidence but they can certainly paint a picture of a possible underlying truth which can be more rigorously investigated with scientific methods. In the case of Ozempic and alcohol use, accounts of people’s personal experiences with the drug have been cropping up online with increasing regularity. These accounts tend to emphasize the same points – the person was a regular, heavy drinker, and had little ability to control or reduce the number of drinks they would have on a given day. Then, after beginning Ozempic for another reason, they suddenly noticed they just didn’t crave alcohol the way they used to. They would notice that the number of days they found themselves drinking to excess in a week would drop precipitously, and without much effort or willpower on their part. Based on anecdotes alone, it seems to be a slam dunk.

Unfortunately, these positive effects have not translated into scientific evidence from human trials. Some clinical trials have been conducted to look into the efficacy of Ozempic as an aid in ceasing alcohol use in humans, but they were unable to show a convincing reduction in drinking among heavy drinkers. However, the studies did note that in particular subgroups of subjects, namely those who were overweight or obese, a reduction in cravings for alcohol was noted. Thus, while human studies have not been promising, they haven’t ruled out the possibility entirely.

Furthermore, animal studies on the same issue have also been conducted and their results have been interesting. One study was similar to the clinical trials in humans, except that It used rats as test subjects. In that study, the rats did seem less inclined to consume alcohol when treated with Ozempic. Results from animal studies should always be taken with a grain of salt; after all, we are not rats, and our physiologies can differ in material ways. However, these results do align with anecdotal accounts in interesting ways that highlight the need for further investigation.

How Might Ozempic Affect the Urge to Drink?

The claim that Ozempic could even have the potential to limit alcohol usage may seem bizarre; after all, why would an anti-diabetic medication have anything to do with the urge to drink? However, there may be aspects of this drug’s function that could explain these effects (if they exist).

Ozempic is primarily understood as being a GLP-1 receptor agonist, meaning that it promotes activity on receptors that regulate hormones involved in digestion. These effects are useful in treating diabetes and obesity because they limit hunger, improve satiety, and slow the release of sugar into the bloodstream.

However, Ozempic may also have effects on the brain that are not as well understood. In particular, Ozempic may interact with the regions of the brain associated with pleasure and reward. People drink for a variety of reasons, a common one being that they like how alcohol makes them feel. Blunting this rewarding feeling could remove the allure of alcohol by breaking the cycle of positive reinforcement that drinkers experience when they feel the pleasant effects of alcohol. This explanation would certainly align with anecdotal reports of people who simply lose the urge to drink.

Side Effects of Ozempic

Drugs are miraculous in some ways, but they can be fairly blunt tools. Though a given drug may elicit a beneficial response for a particular condition, it will almost certainly come with some degree of risk for unwanted, annoying, or even harmful side effects and complications. Whether being taken for the treatment of diabetes, obesity, or alcohol use, Ozempic is no different than other medications in its risk for side effects.

Ozempic has been known to cause digestive disturbances in some users, which, given its impacts on the digestion of food, may not be all that surprising. Associated symptoms can include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal discomfort, and a loss of appetite.

Users may also find themselves losing weight rapidly. While some patients may take Ozempic for this exact reason, those who take it for the treatment of alcohol use, say, should be aware that they too may experience unexpected and potentially unwanted or unhealthy amounts of weight loss in a short amount of time. In addition to possibly being unhealthy for some people, rapid weight loss can also lead to a condition known informally as “Ozempic Face”, in which facial skin begins to sag, droop, or wrinkle due to a loss of fat underneath to keep the skin plump and full.

More serious complications may also occur from Ozempic usage. If you take it and notice any abnormal or concerning changes in your body, your mood, or your behavior, consult with a medical professional.

Other Treatments for Alcohol Use

If an “anti-alcohol” pill sounds like the stuff of fantasy to you, you may be surprised to learn that Ozempic would not even be the first medication to treat alcoholism, if indeed Ozempic is as effective at reducing the urge to drink as some have suggested. Medications like naltrexone have already been FDA-approved to treat alcoholism, though the effects are reportedly modest. And, because such drugs are intended for the treatment of alcohol cessation primarily, they may even bring about fewer side effects than Ozempic. However, which medication is best for any individual is a question for their doctor and them to determine together, so do not make any decisions about either of these medications, or any other medication, without consulting your doctor first.

Drugs are powerful tools and modern society owes much of the improvement in health and life expectancy to pharmacological advancements. However, drugs are only one tool, and for many health-related issues, non-pharmacological interventions are often valid and effective treatment options. People struggling to put down the bottle or cut during happy hour may revel at the idea of a “magic pill” that can help them get further than they can on willpower alone. However, even with drugs, alcoholics often experience more positive outcomes when coupling their medication with therapy, counseling, or other holistic supports. Trying these might be a good place to start and will almost certainly supplement any pharmacological regimen attempted in pursuit of ceasing or reducing alcohol usage.


From as early as high school, many Americans begin to experience alcohol as a fun part of social interactions. From there, their relationship with alcohol tends to only become more sustained and problematic as they experience the normalization of binge drinking in college or as an emotional coping mechanism elsewhere. Very quickly, many Americans find themselves in the grips of a substance use disorder, and may find that they are unable to get out through willpower alone.

Drugs like Ozempic are currently being touted by some online, as well as by some doctors, as a potential aid in the fight against urges to consume alcohol. At this point, it seems too early to assess the validity of these claims. However, if you are struggling to drink less and would like help getting your drinking under control, you should speak to your doctor about treatment. Whether that involves Ozempic, another medication, or non-pharmacological treatments, a doctor is the most qualified person to assist you along the path to recovery.