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Ozempic Could Cause These "Risky" Behavioral Changes, New Study Finds

Researchers theorize that GLP-1 agonists may cause cognitive changes related to decision-making.

Type 2 diabetes treatment Ozempic and its sister drug for weight loss, Wegovy, have both been lauded for their health benefits—but their potential side effects are just as well documented. While some patients have managed to control their diabetes and shed serious pounds, others have been forced to discontinue the treatments. The most commonly reported side effects are uncomfortable physical symptoms, particularly gastrointestinal issues. But there are also concerns about the effects of glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1) agonists—the class of medication Ozempic and Wegovy fall under—on mental health. Now, a new study asserts that these drugs could prompt "risky" behavioral changes.

RELATED: Women Report New Surprising Ozempic Side Effects: "Your Body Is Going to Change."

The study was published in QJM: An International Journal of Medicine on May 22 and focused on the cognitive effects of GLP-1 agonists. In addition to Ozempic and Wegovy, this drug class also includes exenatide (Byetta) and dulaglutide (Trulicity), among others.

Study authors Raymond Playford, PhD, DSc, professor of molecular medicine at the University of West London, and Martin Deahl, MA, MPhil, a psychiatrist from the Institute of Psychiatry in London, note that the relationship between cognition and GLP-1 agonists has "received scant attention." Research has also largely focused on long-term outcomes instead of what happens to patients during the "immediate phases of rapid weight loss," Playford and Deahl point out.

When observing people who just started these drugs, Playford and Deahl found that some made "major life changing decisions regarding their domestic situation" within the first few months. This included divorce, as well as moving homes, the study abstract notes. These behaviors could be attributed to impulsive control disorders.

Speaking with The Mirror, Playford highlighted the high-stakes nature of impulsivity.

"Reckless decision-making due to impulsivity can have serious life-changing repercussions for the patient and their families, which in the worst cases, could result in bankruptcy, changed sexual relationships, and divorce," he told the newspaper.

RELATED: Ex-Ozempic Patient Shares the Side Effect That Won't Go Away.

But while researchers aren't entirely sure how these drugs may induce impulse control disorders, they have a few theories. Playford and Deahl suggest that starting GLP-1 medications may be spurring cognitive changes in patients' decision-making. This could be due to the metabolic changes from being in a calorie deficit and losing weight, in combination with the "direct effects of GLP-1 agonists on brain function."

Interestingly enough, these sudden impulsive and often risky behaviors are also associated with drugs used to treat Parkinson's disease. As Playford told the Daily Mail, weight loss and Parkinson's medications "share the common mechanism of influencing brain dopamine levels." Dopamine is often referred to as the "happy hormone."

Information about impulse control disorder is noted in leaflets for Parkinson's drugs, Playford said. In the medication description for one of these treatments, Sinemet (carbidopa-levodopa), the adverse events section specifically denotes "impulse control symptoms." Warnings about impulse control disorders are not currently listed in the U.S. prescribing information for Ozempic and Wegovy.

"No such warnings are currently present on patient information leaflets for GLP-1 agonists. We are recommending that while research is conducted to examine how much of an issue this might be, it would make sense to give a warning to prescribers, patients and relatives to be on the lookout for it," Playford told The Mirror.

RELATED: Women Reveal "Crazy" Side Effects After Quitting Ozempic.

Playford also noted that researchers aren't aware of how often this is happening, and people may not realize that a medication "has caused them to act uncharacteristically" unless they were warned ahead of time.

Researchers haven't yet observed any "excessive gambling or sexual activity" in patients yet, but they "wouldn't be surprised if this was happening," Playford told the Daily Mail.

It's worth noting, however, that other patients on GLP-1 agonists have reported a decrease in sometimes addictive behaviors, specifically drinking alcohol and sex.

In response to Best Life, a spokesperson for Novo Nordisk (the maker of Ozempic and Wegovy) declined to comment on the study.

Best Life offers the most up-to-date information from top experts, new research, and health agencies, but our content is not meant to be a substitute for professional guidance. When it comes to the medication you're taking or any other health questions you have, always consult your healthcare provider directly.

Abby Reinhard
Abby Reinhard is a Senior Editor at Best Life, covering daily news and keeping readers up to date on the latest style advice, travel destinations, and Hollywood happenings. Read more
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