Ozempic For Weight Loss | Trends, Risks, & Abuse
Almost every day, social media users on apps like TikTok and Instagram promote new, unusual ways to lose weight. Recently, many people have been trying to shed pounds using the diabetes medication Ozempic. Like other weight loss trends, this practice may do more harm than good.
What Is Ozempic?
Ozempic is a prescription medication that helps control blood sugar levels in people with type 2 diabetes. It also reduces their risk of major cardiovascular effects such as heart attack and stroke. It’s taken via injection once a week.
The drug works by increasing the effects of glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1). GLP-1 is a naturally occurring hormone that your gut releases in response to food intake. It helps your body make more insulin, which is a hormone that regulates your blood sugar.
Can You Use Ozempic For Weight Loss?
Along with affecting blood sugar, Ozempic slows the rate of gastric emptying. That means it takes more time for food to leave your stomach, making you feel fuller longer. It also decreases your appetite by impacting parts of the brain associated with hunger. Together, these effects may promote weight loss.
Even so, the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not approved Ozempic as a weight loss drug.
However, the active ingredient in Ozempic, semaglutide, is sometimes prescribed for long-term weight management under the brand name Wegovy.
Wegovy offers a higher dose of semaglutide than Ozempic. While Ozempic contains between 0.5 and 2 milligrams of semaglutide, Wegoy contains 2.4 milligrams.
According to one clinical trial, people who took Wegovy for 68 weeks lost nearly 15.9% of their body weight (compared to 2.4% in the placebo group).
The drug is mainly recommended for people with a body mass index (BMI) of at least 30 who have had trouble losing weight through lifestyle changes alone. Due to high demand, Wegovy is often in short supply.
Social Media Trends
In 2021, these shortages led many people to try Ozempic off-label for weight loss. Some of them shared their results on social media, skyrocketing the drug’s popularity.
Soon, numerous social media users were describing the medication as an essential tool for rapid weight loss. Many celebrities admitted to using it as well.
However, most doctors don’t recommend using Ozempic to lose weight. Unlike Wegovy, Ozempic was not designed for weight management.
Also, even Wegovy is not intended for quick, cosmetic weight loss. Instead, it helps people who are very overweight or obese manage their weight over time to reduce their risk of weight-related medical problems.
Risks Of Using Ozempic For Weight Loss
Like other prescription drugs, Ozempic may have side effects. The most common side effects include:
- nausea and vomiting
- stomach pain
Rarer, more serious side effects include:
- vision changes
- trouble swallowing
- trouble breathing
- reduced urination
- rash and/or itching
- swelling of the face, eyes, mouth, tongue, throat, legs, ankles, or feet
- hypoglycemia (low blood sugar)
- kidney problems
- gallbladder problems
- pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas)
- thyroid tumors
Ozempic may also cause additional issues for people who are pregnant, breastfeeding, or under the age of 18. The drug is also not recommended for people with multiple endocrine neoplasia syndrome type 2 (MEN 2) or a family history of medullary thyroid cancer (MTC).
Some people are willing to risk side effects in hopes of losing weight. However, because Ozempic was not designed for long-term weight loss, most people regain much or all of their lost weight once they stop using it.
Availability For Diabetes Patients
Using Ozempic for weight loss also presents an ethical problem.
As more and more people use the drug to shed pounds, it becomes less available to those who rely on it to treat their diabetes.
Due to shortages, some diabetes patients must wait months to refill their prescriptions. As a result, their diabetes gets worse, taking a toll on both their physical and mental health.
Before using Ozempic for any reason, talk to your healthcare provider. They can help you determine whether the drug is right for you and how much you should take. Using Ozempic in a manner not prescribed is considered prescription drug abuse.
People who abuse Ozempic face a higher risk of side effects. They may also experience dangerous spikes in blood sugar if they start and stop the drug without the guidance of a doctor.
If you or someone you love struggles with prescription drug abuse, please contact an Ark Behavioral Health specialist. Our inpatient and outpatient treatment programs offer personalized, evidence-based care to help you or your loved one stay healthy.
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