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Ozempic Is Changing Some Patients' Personalities, and Doctors Think They Know Why

Some patients said that they no longer have interest in certain vices.

When reading about Ozempic, you're bound to hear about the potential side effects. The medication, which is indicated for the treatment of type 2 diabetes, is often prescribed off-label for weight loss—and while it's certainly effective, some patients have reported gastrointestinal (GI) issues and a slew of unpleasant complications. But although these side effects can be debilitating for some, there have also been reports of glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1) agonists—the class of medication Ozempic and its sister drug, Wegovy, fall under—changing patients' personalities.

RELATED: Ozempic Patients Reveal Major Side Effect When You Stop Taking It.

Some patients have reported that Ozempic diminished their libido, while others noted that it actually curbed their interest in vices like alcohol. It may seem a little mysterious as to why this happens, but doctors say there actually might be a clear reason for these changes.

As experts explained in conversation with the Daily Mail, dopamine is a key factor here. According to the Cleveland Clinic, dopamine is the "reward center" in your brain, giving you a sense of pleasure and motivation to do something when you're feeling those effects. Both food and substances activate these signals in our brain.

Ozempic works by mimicking the GLP-1 hormone in your body, slowing gastric emptying and making you feel fuller for longer. According to Kent Berridge, PhD, professor of psychology and neuroscience at the University of Michigan, this affects your food cravings, but it may affect other cravings as well.

"Satiety may be not only reducing the craving for food, but potentially for other things," Berridge told the Daily Mail.

In fact, when people are hungry, cravings for things like addictive drugs are also amplified.

"When researchers are trying to get animals to learn to self-administer cocaine, they often will keep them hungry for a little while, as this helps them learn," Berridge said. "Hunger is specifically for food but it's more general than that, it activates craving for a lot of things. If you're hungry, the motivational value of things, even that are not food, seems to increase."

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

It may also just be that the desires are subdued, as patients on Ozempic do still eat, just not as much as they did before they were on the medication.

"That would be a possibility—taking the [edge off certain cravings], and those are the ones that are problematic if you're trying to lose weight or if a person is trying to stop taking drugs," Berridge added.

In terms of decreased libido or interest in having sex, Berridge offered an explanation for that, too. When the reward pathway for this is suppressed, patients might not be as interested in physical intimacy.

"If you're suppressing [dopamine activation] a little bit and cutting down those mountain peaks, sexual desire is a natural peak, so that would be plausible," Berridge told the Daily Mail.

However, the question remains as to how exactly Ozempic is suppressing dopamine, according to Berridge.

"It may be partly acting right on the nucleus accumbens [the brain structure known for its role in pleasure, reward and addiction], because there are receptors there," he told the newspaper.

There are other theories that dopamine can become so suppressed as a result of these medications that it could lead to conditions like anxiety and depression. While this isn't "impossible," according to Berridge, people may have been depressed beforehand, or they could be suffering from a condition called anhedonia, where they lose the ability to want pleasure.

"'Pleasure still [gets] the normal ratings but nothing has value in life, and that's a problem," he told Daily Mail about anhedonia. "If [Ozempic] were causing any problems of that sort, I'd expect it to be that way—evolution rather than real loss of pleasure."

RELATED: Ozempic Patients Are Going to the ER Over "Severe" Side Effects.

On top of this, another expert speaking with the Daily Mail shared that Ozempic could be changing personalities by reducing depression.

"I think it regulates dopamine: it can raise it and it can lower it, but basically it keeps it in a stable range," Sue Decotiis, MD, a weight-loss doctor based in New York, told the outlet. "I've seen a lot of reversal of depression in patients, because when you enhance the action of dopamine, you're really reducing depression, anxiety, compulsive behaviors such as gambling and drinking, and all of those things, even people don't feel the need that they have to go out and do that anymore."

It's worth noting that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) received hundreds or reports of psychiatric disorders related to three of Novo Nordisk's treatments—Ozempic, Wegovy, and Saxenda—in 2023, The New York Post reported. The regulatory agency requires that medications like Saxenda and Wegovy have warnings about suicidal thoughts because they are indicated for weight management and work on the central nervous system, but Ozempic isn't required to have it because it's only approved for diabetes.

The FDA confirmed that its reviews of clinical trials have not found connections between these drugs and the occurrence of suicidal thoughts or actions. Still, the agency couldn't "definitively rule out that a small risk may exist." After a nine-month review, the European Medicines Agency also concluded that "available evidence does not support a causal associations" between GLP-1s and suicidal thoughts or actions.

Best Life reached out to Novo Nordisk for comment on reports of personality changes, and we will update the story with the company's response.

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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