Diabetes medication shows the potential to reduce alcohol consumption

Semaglutide may be a new treatment for alcohol dependence.


Alcohol consumption is a prevalent behavior that has significant implications for public health, as excessive drinking is associated with various adverse effects, including an increased risk of chronic diseases. For individuals with diabetes, managing alcohol intake becomes even more crucial due to potential interactions with glucose control and complications.

However, recent research has shed light on a promising intervention: certain diabetes medications have demonstrated the ability to reduce alcohol consumption by half among affected individuals.

This study aims to explore the efficacy and underlying mechanisms of these medications as a potential tool for alcohol reduction in the context of diabetes management. By examining the impact of these medications on alcohol-drinking behavior, this research could contribute to developing novel interventions aimed at improving health outcomes and promoting responsible alcohol consumption in individuals with diabetes.

A recent study by Elisabet Jerlhag Holm and Cajsa Aranäs from the University of Gothenburg explored the mechanisms behind reducing alcohol consumption with a particular medication.

The research revealed that the medication, semaglutide, affects the brain’s reward system, specifically the nucleus accumbens area, part of the limbic system. By blocking the release of dopamine, a neurotransmitter associated with alcohol-induced reward, the medication interferes with the brain’s response to alcohol. This finding suggests that reduced alcohol-induced premium plays a role in the medication’s effectiveness.

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, said, “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.”

Semaglutide, sold as Ozempic, is in high demand due to its approval for treating obesity. Procurement challenges have arisen recently. Patients have reported reduced alcohol cravings after starting the medication. Current alcohol dependence treatment involves psychosocial methods and approved medicines. However, additional treatment options are needed due to the varied efficacy of existing medicines.

Semaglutide, a once-weekly tablet acting on the GLP-1 receptor, has shown promising results in reducing alcohol consumption and relapses in alcohol-dependent rats. A study published revealed that Semaglutide significantly reduced alcohol intake, with treated rats consuming half as much alcohol as untreated rats. Notably, the medication demonstrated equal effectiveness in both male and female rats.

The study’s positive findings suggest the potential benefits of Semaglutide for alcohol dependence. However, clinical studies on humans are needed before their use can be approved. The medication may be beneficial for individuals with both overweight and alcohol addiction. Previous studies using a similar research model have shown similar effects in humans, indicating a potential carryover of results.

However, differences between animal and human studies should be considered, and further research is required. Professor Elisabet Jerlhag highlights a previous study where an older version of GLP-1 diabetes medication reduced alcohol intake in overweight individuals with alcohol dependence.

In conclusion, this study demonstrates that Semaglutide administration reduces alcohol intake and attenuates relapse-like drinking behavior in male and female rats. These findings highlight the potential of semaglutide as a pharmacological intervention for the treatment of alcohol use disorder and warrant further investigation for its clinical application in humans.

Journal Reference:

  1. Cajsa Aranäs, Christian E. Edvardsson et al. Semaglutide reduces alcohol intake and relapse-like drinking in male and female rats. Biomedicines. DOI: 10.1016/j.ebiom.2023.104642.
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