Nearly one year ago, Christie Martin, a mom and realtor in Las Vegas, said she started taking Ozempic to help her lose weight.
Martin, 58, told ”Good Morning America” that within a matter of months of taking the medication, she had lost over 30 pounds.
But Martin, who said she had gotten into a routine of drinking nearly one bottle of wine per night after work, said she soon noticed a side effect of the drug: She lost her appetite for alcohol.
"I did not want to drink anymore," Martin said. "I went to the grocery store and I didn't even want to buy a bottle of wine. I would even go out with friends and other coworkers and clients and maybe I would try to order a glass of wine at dinner, and I couldn't even finish it. It just didn't sit well with me."
Martin said that before taking Ozempic, she was someone who would have wine at lunch and who "loved" having wine at dinner. At home, she said she saw drinking wine as a "reward" after a long day of working and being a single mom.
"I have no desire to drink wine anymore," she said of the effect of Ozempic. "And that's crazy to me because I couldn't stop before."
Martin's experience is one that is ringing true for researchers as well.
One small, recently published case study found that six people who screened positive for alcohol use disorder saw a clinically significant decrease in symptoms while using semaglutide, the active ingredient in Ozempic and another medication, Wegovy, for weight loss.
While this small case study doesn’t provide strong scientific evidence that these drugs can also be used to treat alcohol use disorder, experts say it does reinforce the need for larger, randomized clinical trials that are in early stages.
Alcohol use disorder is a medical condition that is characterized by "an impaired ability to stop or control alcohol use despite adverse social, occupational, or health consequences," according to the National Institutes of Health's National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. Nearly 30 million people over the age of 12 in the United States have alcohol use disorder, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s 2022 National Survey of Drug Use and Health, the most recent data available.
Martin, who was not part of the case study, said that she was never diagnosed with alcohol use disorder, but acknowledged that her drinking was "an issue" prior to taking Ozempic.
"The fact that I just have no desire for it is something I didn't expect and is just an amazing side benefit," she said. "I can't even tell you."
How semaglutide may help with alcohol use
Semaglutide, a GLP-1 receptor agonist medication, is the active ingredient in in drugs like Ozempic and Wegovy that have skyrocketed in popularity over the past year due to their success in being used for weight loss.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved Ozempic as a treatment for Type 2 diabetes alongside diet and exercise if other medications cannot control blood sugar levels well enough.
Although Ozempic is not explicitly approved for chronic weight management, it can be prescribed off-label and used safely for people who are obese.
Wegovy is essentially the same injectable drug as Ozempic, prescribed at a higher dosage. The FDA has specifically approved Wegovy for patients with severe obesity, or who are overweight and have one or more weight-associated conditions like high blood pressure or high cholesterol.
Both drugs work by slowing down movement of food through the stomach and curbing appetite, thereby causing weight loss.
Experts have theorized that the way in which semaglutide interacts with the brain to stop overeating also helps with other addictive behaviors, including alcohol use.
"Theories are that it works in the brain and the rewards center," said ABC News chief medical correspondent Dr. Jennifer Ashton, a dual board-certified physician in OBGYN and obesity medicine who was not involved in the semaglutide study.
Ashton described the research showing drugs used for weight loss may help people curb alcohol use as a "potential major indication."
In addition to raising the risk of health complications including cancer, drinking alcohol is listed by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services as a known human carcinogen.
Heavy drinking is typically defined as consuming eight drinks or more per week, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. One serving of alcohol is defined as five ounces for wine and just 1 1/2 ounces for hard alcohol, far less than what is typically served in bars, restaurants, and people's homes.
Currently, treatments for alcohol use disorder include three FDA-approved medications, behavioral interventions, and tech-based or app-based therapies, according to Ashton.
"This isn't just about potentially choosing one [treatment]," Ashton said. "It's about, if you have an alcohol use disorder or a substance abuse disorder, filling the boat and getting as much treatment as you can to make a big change in your lifestyle."
Currently, the use of semaglutide medications for alcohol use disorder is considered off-label and therefore unlikely to be covered by insurance, making this option too costly for most to afford. Without insurance coverage, the cost of medications like Ozempic and Wegovy can run more than $1,000 a month.
Results from clinical trials that provide stronger scientific evidence are a year or more away and would still need to be approved through appropriate regulatory agencies before this indication could be approved.
For questions and concerns about alcohol use, SAMHSA, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, has a 24/7 free and confidential helpline available at 1-800-662-HELP (4357), and online at samhsa.gov/find-help/national-helpline.
Dr. Jade A Cobern, M.D., M.P.H., a board-eligible in pediatrics and resident in General Preventive Medicine at Johns Hopkins and a member of the ABC News Medical Unit, contributed to this report.