Should You Take Ozempic For Weight Loss? Here’s What You Need to Know


Ever wished there was a magic pill that could help you lose weight? 

If you’re reading this, it’s safe to assume you’ve probably heard from healthcare providers, movie stars and influencers, and even your well-meaning friends and neighbors that Ozempic could be the answer.

But is it too good to be true? Technically, Ozempic (semaglutide) was primarily and originally prescribed as a treatment for adults with type 2 diabetes. In the last few years, though, Ozempic has become extremely popular for its off-label use as a weight loss drug.

However, Ozempic—despite being well-known in the media as a wonder drug for weight loss—is not approved by the FDA to treat chronic weight management.

So, should you take Ozempic for weight loss? 

Well, the answer isn’t so black and white—so here’s what we know and what you should consider if you’re looking for prescription medication to help you lose weight.

Here’s What You Need to Know if You’re Considering Ozempic For Weight Loss

Plenty of drugs are commonly prescribed by healthcare providers for off-label use. If appropriate for that individual patient, this can be a perfectly safe practice. 

However, there are a few considerations to keep in mind when it comes to Ozempic:

  • Unknown & known side effects and potential health impacts. Semaglutide drugs are new to the market. We do not yet know the full extent of the long-term side effects and health impacts of Ozempic or other semaglutide drugs, whether they are used as a weight loss treatment or for diabetes. 
  • Supply cannot keep up with demand. Currently, all semaglutide drugs are being overprescribed both for on- and off-label use. This means people who need Ozempic for the management of serious illnesses like type 2 diabetes sometimes cannot get it.
  • Traditional weight loss methods still work. Some individuals who are overweight or obese who do not suffer from chronic obesity or certain disorders (such as binge eating disorder or metabolic disorders) may still be able to lose weight through traditional weight loss methods such as lifestyle and diet changes and exercise. Ozempic might not be necessary in these cases.

Here are a few other drugs that are FDA-approved for weight loss or prescribed off-label for weight loss:

  • Wegovy (semaglutide): Manufactured by Novo Nordisk. A once-weekly injection that is FDA-approved and prescribed for weight loss.
  • Rybelsus (semaglutide): Manufactured by Novo Nordisk. A once-a-day pill prescribed to improve symptoms of type 2 diabetes.
  • Saxenda (liraglutide): Manufactured by Novo Nordisk. A once-a-day injection prescribed to help manage chronic obesity.
  • Mounjaro (tirzepatide): Manufactured by Eli Lilly. A once-weekly injection prescribed to manage type 2 diabetes symptoms.
  • Zepbound (tirzepatide): Manufactured by Eli Lilly. A one-weekly injection prescribed to help manage chronic obesity and overweight in adults.
  • Xenical (orlistat): Manufactured by Roche Registration Limited. Prevents the absorption of fatty acids.

However, keep in mind that, just like Ozempic, there is a shortage of many of these medications, meaning that individuals with a medical need for these drugs should be getting them first.

As always, speak with your doctor to discuss your options, voice your concerns, and whether or not a weight loss medication would be right for you.

If you want to learn more about Ozempic, how it works, and the pros and cons of taking a drug like semaglutide, keep on reading.

What Is Ozempic?

Ozempic (semaglutide) is a prescription medication used to treat individuals with type 2 diabetes and known heart disease.1

Its primary purpose is to lower blood sugar, which is determined using the hemoglobin A1C test, which determines average blood sugar levels over a three-month period.

This reduces the risk of cardiovascular events such as strokes and heart attacks. As we know, a known side effect is also weight loss, but it is not approved as a weight loss drug.

Ozempic is administered under the skin by injection once a week and is available in multiple dosages.

How Does Ozempic Work?

Type 2 diabetes is a disease in which a person’s pancreas does not produce enough insulin, a hormone that helps move glucose (sugar) into our body’s cells to use for fuel.2 People with this condition may also be insulin resistant, meaning cells begin to not respond appropriately to insulin and take in less sugar as a result.

Ozempic’s primary ingredient, semaglutide, mimics a hormone called GLP-1 (glucagon-like peptide-1) that affects glucose levels.3 This hormone binds to and activates GLP-1 receptors in the brain, telling our bodies to secrete insulin.

This lowers both fasting and postprandial (post-meal) blood glucose levels, which type 2 diabetics are unable to do since their pancreas’ cannot naturally secrete enough insulin.

Ozempic also lowers the secretion of glucagon—a hormone made by the pancreas that increases blood sugar. Therefore, lowering levels of glucagon can help decrease high blood sugar.

Finally, Ozempic also slows down the stomach’s digestion process, essentially decreasing the rate at which glucose would normally appear in the bloodstream. 

To summarize, Ozempic:

  1. Helps the pancreas produce more insulin to help lower blood sugar levels
  2. Prevents your liver from making and releasing too much sugar
  3. Slows down digestion, reducing the amount of sugar delivered to your bloodstream at one time

Benefits of Taking Ozempic

For type 2 diabetics, Ozempic can be a life-changing—and even life-saving—drug. 

However, there are many potential off-label uses for the drug that could be the key to solving some of the world’s most pernicious and difficult-to-treat diseases, like obesity and addiction.

Until more research is done, we can’t say for sure whether Ozempic is a safe or even optimal form of treatment for these diseases, but it is an exciting possibility worthy of exploration.

For Diabetes

In 2021, it was estimated that approximately 38.4 million people (11.6%) in the United States had diabetes.4 Of those officially diagnosed, 352,000 were children and adolescents, mostly with type 1 diabetes.

It’s safe to say, with such a significant percentage of the population affected by this disease, that any medical solution that could alleviate the ongoing insulin shortage would be ideal.

However, with so many people being prescribed this drug for weight loss, there is now an ongoing shortage of Ozempic available for type 2 diabetics.

This is problematic for many reasons and may eventually have wider implications for those with type 1 diabetes. 

Currently, Ozempic is not approved for type 1 diabetes. However, there is research being carried out to determine if the drug could have applications for this form of diabetes, too, and early results so far have been promising.

All ten of the participants in this study completely eliminated their dependence on prandial (mealtime) insulin within three months.5 The participants were all early type 1 diabetics.6

However, unless the pharmaceutical industry can begin producing more of this drug to meet demand, this may be a dream that is never realized.

For Weight Loss

Prescribing Ozempic for weight loss and chronic weight management has become so widespread that it has caused a shortage of the drug for individuals who arguably have a greater need for its original intended purpose, to treat type 2 diabetes.

However, this doesn’t mean that Ozempic doesn’t work. In fact, it works extremely well to help individuals lose weight and, as a result, achieve a healthy weight and BMI (body mass index).

Semaglutide drugs like Ozempic help people lose weight since it is a type of GLP therapy.7 This is because GLP-1 receptor agonists reduce food intake by regulating appetite and hunger and promoting fullness and satiety.

Semaglutide also slows down gastric emptying, which makes us feel fuller for longer.

All in all, this reduces overall food intake, which reduces total calorie intake, ultimately leading to weight loss.

For Addiction

One unexpected side effect that individuals have reported is a reduction in all addictive habits, not just a potential addiction to food. 

You are probably not shocked to hear that this drug curbs binge eating disorder (after all, it is an appetite suppressant), but according to this article in the Atlantic from Sarah Zhang, people taking the drug have equally pulled back on “drinking, smoking, shopping, and even nail biting.”8

It may even help with opioid addiction, which is extremely compelling in light of the opioid epidemic that continues to grip much of the U.S.

But scientists who study GLP-1 drugs like semaglutide are not all that surprised.9 Dozens of animal studies have demonstrated this effect through reduced dependence on and addiction to alcohol.10

One theory is that since the GLP-1 receptors in our brains may overlap with dopamine receptors, people may not get the same hit of dopamine that they’re used to when they eat a yummy cookie or drink a pint of beer when taking Ozempic.

This has led to some clinicians prescribing the drug to help patients with alcohol addictions. 

While this is a very exciting potential use for semaglutide drugs, more research needs to be done, and the supply shortage needs to be solved before moving forward with prescribing this drug for off-label use.

Ozempic as a Weight Loss Drug - The Good and The Bad

Side Effects of Ozempic

If you want to read the full drug information, go directly to Novo Nordisk’s Ozempic side effects page here.11

The most common side effects of semaglutide drugs are diarrhea and general digestive upset such as constipation, nausea, and vomiting.

However, there is potential for some very serious side effects, including severe allergic reactions, thyroid tumors such as medullary thyroid carcinoma, stomach paralysis, pancreatitis, and bowel obstructions.12

While this is rare, it has been noted as a potential side effect when using this medication off-label, aka for weight loss.

So, if you start taking this drug and ever have severe pain, vomiting, diarrhea, or an inability to pass gas or have bowel movements, seek medical attention.

It’s also advised that patients still consistently check blood sugar levels to avoid hypoglycemic incidents since low blood sugar can occur on this drug.

Final Thoughts

In a society a bit overly obsessed with body weight and looks, it’s no shock that drugs like Ozempic are being overprescribed for weight loss.

Despite its growing reputation as a wonder drug for weight management, ultimately, Ozempic isn’t FDA-approved for weight loss. 

The off-label use of this medication not only exacerbates the existing shortage—depriving those with type 2 diabetes of a potentially life-saving treatment—but there are side effects that could impact an individual’s health in unknown and potentially life-altering ways.

While Ozempic does show promise in addressing health issues beyond diabetes, including obesity and addiction, more elaborate clinical studies are needed to fully understand its efficacy and safety.

For individuals seeking weight loss solutions, traditional methods of weight loss like lifestyle changes and exercise are still some of the most effective and safest ways to lose weight. 

However, there are FDA-approved medications, such as Wegovy, which may be better suited for weight loss than Ozempic. 

As always, we recommend consulting with a healthcare provider to explore all your options and make informed decisions.

Ozempic FAQs

Why isn’t Ozempic approved for weight loss?

Ozempic is currently only FDA-approved for treating type 2 diabetes but has not received approval for weight loss. Its sister drugs, Wegovy and Rybelsus, are also semiglutide drugs that are FDA-approved for weight loss. However, you must meet certain criteria with a BMI greater than 30 or a BMI greater than 27 with an additional risk factor like high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, or high cholesterol.

What weight loss drug is replacing Ozempic?

There are several weight loss drugs available besides Ozempic. In 2021, Wegovy (semaglutide) was FDA-approved specifically for chronic weight management in adults with obesity or overweight conditions.

Can you take Ozempic for weight loss if you don’t have diabetes?

While some healthcare providers may prescribe Ozempic for its off-label uses, this practice raises concerns since it is not FDA-approved for weight loss or addiction, and there is a severe shortage of the drug, which puts a strain on individuals with type 2 diabetes who may need the drug.

What are the benefits of taking Ozempic?

Ozempic helps control blood sugar levels, which is crucial for individuals with type 2 diabetes. Its off-label use has shown promise for weight loss and potentially curbing addictive habits, such as alcohol and nicotine dependence. However, further research is needed to ensure the drug is safe to take for these purposes.

Is Ozempic worth the risk?

This will entirely depend on your individual needs, health conditions, and treatment goals. While it is very effective for controlling blood sugar levels, only you and your healthcare provider can determine if this drug is right for you.

Do you gain weight back after Ozmepic?

If you take Ozempic for weight loss, there is the potential that you may need to stay on this drug for the rest of your life if you don’t also incorporate changes in your lifestyle and dietary habits. If your ultimate goal is to ween yourself off this medication, you need to commit to sustainable healthy behaviors once you stop taking this medication.

  1. Ozempic. (n.d.). What Is Ozempic® (semaglutide) Injection? 
  2. Mayo Clinic. (n.d.). Type 2 diabetes: Symptoms & causes. Mayo Clinic. 
  3. Ozempic. (n.d.). For adults with T2D Once-weekly Ozempic® (semaglutide) injection mechanism of action. Ozempic. 
  4. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. (n.d.). Diabetes statistics. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. 
  5. Dandona, P., Chaudhuri, A., & Ghanim, H. (2023). Semaglutide in early type 1 diabetes. New England Journal of Medicine, 389(10), 958–959. 
  6. Type 1 Diabetes TrialNet. (n.d.) Research Spotlight: Type 1 diabetes staging classification opens door for intervention. TrialNet. 
  7. Shah, M., & Vella, A. (2014). Effects of GLP-1 on appetite and weight. Reviews in endocrine & metabolic disorders, 15(3), 181–187.
  8. Zhang, S. (2023, May 22). Did scientists accidentally invent an anti-addiction drug?. The Atlantic.
  9. Doucleff, M. (2023, August 28). Ozempic seems to curb cravings for alcohol. Here’s what scientists think is going on. NPR.  
  11. Ozempic. (2024, April 1). Ozempic Side Effects. Ozempic. 
  12. Dangerfield, K. (2023, October 5). Ozempic linked to stomach paralysis, other gastrointestinal issues: UBC Study. Global News. 

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