We've updated our Privacy Policy to make it clearer how we use your personal data.

We use cookies to provide you with a better experience. You can read our Cookie Policy here.

Advertisement

Diabetes and Obesity Drug Cuts Alcohol Consumption by Half in Rat Model

A glass containing light brown liquid, with some spilling over the top.
Credit: Vinicius "Amnx" Amano/ Unsplash
Listen with
Speechify
0:00
Register for free to listen to this article
Thank you. Listen to this article using the player above.

Want to listen to this article for FREE?

Complete the form below to unlock access to ALL audio articles.

Read time: 2 minutes

Semaglutide is sold under brand names such as Ozempic. Since this medication was also approved for the treatment of obesity, demand has increased, which has resulted in difficulties in procuring the drug in recent times. There is anecdotal evidence of patients with obesity or diabetes saying that their craving for alcohol has lessened since they started taking the drug.


Today, individuals with alcohol dependence are treated with a combination of various psychosocial methods and medications. Four approved medications are available. Since alcohol dependence is a disease with many causes, the efficacy of these medications varies, and so it is important that we develop additional treatment medications.

Reduced relapses

Semaglutide is a long-acting substance that only needs to be taken once a week. This is the first medication to act on the GLP-1 receptor that can be taken in tablet form.


The results of the study are published in the scientific journal eBioMedicine. In the study, alcohol-dependent rats were treated with semaglutide, which significantly reduced their alcohol consumption and even reduced the drinking of alcohol in conjunction with relapses. Relapses comprise a major problem for individuals with alcohol dependence, as an individual who has abstained from alcohol for a period relapses and drink more than before the withdrawal.

Want more breaking news?

Subscribe to Technology Networks’ daily newsletter, delivering breaking science news straight to your inbox every day.

Subscribe for FREE
In the study, the treated rats cut their alcohol intake in half compared to animals that did not receive treatment. One interesting finding in the study was that semaglutide reduced alcohol intake equally in both male and female rats.

Animals and humans

The study reports a strikingly good effect, although clinical studies will be required before the medication can be used for alcohol dependence, and such studies take time. Moving forward, the medication may be of most benefit to patients suffering from both overweight and alcohol dependence. According to the researchers it is likely that these results will carry over to humans, as results from other studies on alcohol dependency medications made with the same research model have shown similar effect in humans as in rats.


“There are, of course, differences in conducting studies on animals and humans, and these must always be taken into account. However, in this case, there is a previous study on humans in which an older version of the diabetes medications that act on GLP-1 was found to reduce alcohol intake in overweight individuals with alcohol dependence,” says Elisabet Jerlhag, professor of pharmacology at Sahlgrenska Academy at the University of Gothenburg.

Mechanisms in the brain

The current study also examined why the medication reduces alcohol drinking. The results indicate that reduced alcohol-induced reward could be a contributing factor. In the study, semaglutide affected the brain’s reward system in mice, to be more exact the nucleus accumbens area of the brain, which is part of the limbic system.


“Alcohol activates the brain’s reward system, resulting in the release of dopamine, something that is seen in both humans and animals. This process is blocked by the medication in mice, and with our interpretation, this could cause a reduction in the alcohol-induced reward,” says Cajsa Aranäs, doctoral student at Sahlgrenska Academy at the University of Gothenburg, who is responsible for much of the work behind the study presented here.


Reference: Aranäs C, Edvardsson CE, Shevchouk OT, et al. Semaglutide reduces alcohol intake and relapse-like drinking in male and female rats. eBioMed. 2023;93. doi: 10.1016/j.ebiom.2023.104642

This article has been republished from the following materials. Note: material may have been edited for length and content. For further information, please contact the cited source.