‘Monkey off my back’: Weight loss drug patients report changes in other addictive habits

BOSTON — As more people take weight loss drugs like Ozempic and Wegovy, we’re learning more about a wide range of side effects from the medications. Some patients say they notice the drug helps with other addictive habits besides overeating, from gambling to shopping to drinking and smoking.

Waltham resident Pattie Manning says her doctor prescribed her Trulicity at the start of the year and she noticed a change in her eating habits and her weight right away.

“I loved it from day one,” Manning said. “I have lost 42 pounds in four months. All of my numbers have improved. My A-1-C has come down four points. I was pre-diabetic. It’s just like somebody took this monkey off my back because the addiction was so strong all the time. For sugar. For sweets. For food. And I always thought it was me. Like, ‘Why couldn’t I control it?’ This takes all of it away.”

Manning says she’s seen more than a change in just eating habits, but other habits as well.

“Definitely drinking. I love meeting friends at bars, and I just can’t drink more than one anymore,” Manning said, adding, “I haven’t been to a casino in four months, haven’t thought about it. Shopping? Definitely. My shopping habits are completely different. I shop for what I need now, not just for what I want.”

Dr. Samata Sharma says Manning isn’t the only one to notice that change. Dr. Sharma is a psychiatrist who specializes in addiction medicine and is the Medical Director of Brigham Women’s Dushku-Palandjian Bridge Clinic.

“We’re hearing more and more just anecdotally how people who have started semaglutides have noticed that they’re losing interest, instead of having that second drink or losing interest in having that third, fourth cigarette,” Dr. Sharma said,

Dr. Sharma says this class of drugs impacts receptors in the reward system area of the brain that drive addictive behaviors.

When asked if these drugs could be a game changer in terms of addiction treatment, Dr. Sharma said they could be.

“I think anything that potentially helps or robustly helps is important and is potentially really impactful,” she said. According to Dr. Sharma, studies are underway now to take a closer look at the connection.

Pattie Manning says, for her, the difference is clear.

“I feel lighter, and not just because of the weight. I feel lighter because the addiction isn’t there. It made such a huge difference in, you know, sort of bowing to the power of other things that were pulling you, and that just that’s just amazing,” Manning concluded.

With any prescription, it’s very important to talk to your doctor, especially since some patients experience side effects with these medications.

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