New research has found that patients taking the weight-loss and diabetes drug semaglutide had significantly reduced symptoms of alcohol use disorder. Although the study was small, larger studies are underway with the potential to lead to the use of drugs like semaglutide to treat addiction.
Using a retrospective chart review, the researchers identified six patients treated with semaglutide for weight loss who also had positive screening for AUD on the Alcohol Use Disorder Identification Test before starting semaglutide therapy.
Possible scores range from zero to 40, with scores between eight and 14 suggesting hazardous or harmful alcohol consumption and a score of 15 or more indicating the likelihood of AUD. All six patients had a significant reduction in AUD symptoms based on AUDIT score improvement, with a mean decrease of 9.5 points following semaglutide treatment.
Pre-clinical trials on rats and monkeys demonstrated that semaglutide was associated with a decrease in drug and alcohol consumption, and anecdotally, many patients taking the drug report a decrease in the urge to drink.
“With the publication of this case series in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, the stage is set for future clinical trials, such as the STAR studies, which can definitively tell us whether semaglutide is safe and effective for treatment of alcohol use disorder,” said Kyle Simmons, corresponding author of the study.
The findings open the door to using drugs such as semaglutide in the treatment of addictive behaviors.