Type 2 diabetes is a chronic disease often treated with lifestyle changes and medication. Ozempic works in the body for people with type 2 diabetes to help manage the disease. Ozempic is also prescribed ‘off label’ for weight loss in people who are not diabetic. This article discusses:
- How people living with diabetes regulate blood sugar levels
- How Ozempic affects food absorption and blood glucose
- For people with either type 1 or type 2 diabetes, there may be risks associated with consuming alcohol while also taking Ozempic
Due to the risk of complications, healthcare providers may warn against frequent alcohol consumption when taking diabetes medications. Alcohol-related hypoglycemia, for example, may occur. So, is alcohol off-limits? Not necessarily. Healthcare providers generally approve a ‘moderate’ amount of alcohol. Learn how to confidently apply a dose of science and pragmatism to the doctor’s orders.
Even if you don’t take Ozempic, you probably know someone who does
Ozempic is prescribed to help people living with type 2 diabetes manage their disease. Lately non-diabetics, too, are taking Ozempic as a quick fix for weight loss. It’s called ‘off-label’ use because the drug isn’t intended for non-diabetics. Regardless of why Ozempic is being used, it’s helpful to know whether or not alcohol really is safe to consume.
What is Ozempic?
Ozempic is a medication manufactured by Novo Nordisk, and approved by the FDA in 2017 for use in adults with type 2 diabetes. Ozempic is classified as a semaglutide, one of many glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1) receptor agonists prescribed for type 2 diabetes. When injected into the abdomen, upper arm, or into the thigh, Ozempic—and proper exercise and diet—helps manage type 2 diabetes. Ozempic should be taken with or without food on the same day each week. The prefilled injection pens, initially prescribed with the least dosage (.25mg), effectively lowers blood sugar levels. Over time, the dosage is increased (.50mg., 1.0 mg., 2.0 mg.) until the patient displays an expected level of control, called maintenance.
Ozempic works to produce these outcomes:
- improved blood sugar levels in adults with type 2 diabetes, along with diet and exercise
- lowered risk of serious cardiovascular problems, such as stroke, heart attack, and, in some cases, death due to heart disease in adults with heart disease and type 2 diabetes
Ozempic is not prescribed for weight loss. However, because Ozempic helps reduce blood sugar levels, it works to reduce weight in people with type 2 diabetes who are overweight. And it does a good job.
As mentioned previously, the main ingredient in Ozempic is semaglutide which is available as a daily tablet called Rybelsus for the treatment of type 2 diabetes. Comparatively, the medications may differ in efficacy and Rybelsus is typically lower in cost.
Does alcohol affect a person who’s using Ozempic?
There’s actually little information published to answer this question, yet we do know of possible consequences for people with diabetes who consume alcohol. First, it’s important to distinguish the two most common types of diabetes. People with type 1 diabetes, around 9% of the diabetic population, usually show signs of the disease at a young age, rarely over their 30s. Because it’s believed their immune system attacks the pancreas, they cannot produce the hormone insulin. People living with type 2 diabetes, 91% of diabetics, typically produce insulin, but the hormone doesn’t work properly to lower blood sugar levels.
People with diabetes, then, take medication that helps to regulate their blood sugar levels. According to Mayo Clinic, a general blood sugar (also called blood glucose) target is between 80-130. Specifically, a patient’s healthcare professional may further individualize a patient’s target depending on need. Keeping their blood sugar levels at that sweet spot—not too high and not too low—requires careful food consumption, along with proper exercise. As an aside, it’s important to mention this: exercise holds great potential to lower blood glucose levels, therefore, it’s always recommended people have fruit, crackers, or any small snack in case they feel their glucose level falling (hypoglycemia).
4. How alcohol interacts with diabetes
There’s little information regarding recommendations for alcohol consumption while taking Ozempic. As reported in most literature, blogs, articles, and even the Mayo Clinic, adding alcohol while taking Ozempic has unknown consequences.
What is known, though, is that drinking alcohol can cause hypoglycemia for people who happen to live with diabetes. The problem happens in the liver. Remember, the liver is where detoxification occurs, breaking down toxins and washing them away through our kidneys. But the liver also stores glucose, ready for release when we need energy. Kidneys, in concert with the pancreas, also break down calories and store excess carbohydrates as glycogen, just like the liver.
Unfortunately, when drinking alcohol, the liver usually performs the toxin function first. In fact, it’s often so busy breaking down and moving toxins out that it ignores the other important function, giving the body some energy. What happens when alcohol is broken down and flushed—lowering blood sugar—but the liver isn’t maintaining glucose levels by adding calories. The result is low blood sugar, even dangerously low blood sugar.
Hypoglycemia while drinking can be especially problematic for diabetics, and with good reason. People with diabetes act differently when their blood glucose levels get too low. They may slur words, even stumble or fall. Sometimes they just act ‘out of it.’ Sound familiar? Yes, the behavior may prompt you or others to suspect they are drunk.
In a situation where you’re unsure if someone with diabetes is drunk, it’s best to assume they need calories, and water, to help flush away the alcohol.
Hypoglycemia may occur later, even hours after drinking, or later on during a period of exercise, like swimming at a July 4th pool party. Be observant and be prepared, just in case. Mayo Clinic
5. Can you drink alcohol and take Ozempic?
There’s some good news on this front.
First, you might be taking Ozempic and wondering whether you can also safely drink alcohol. If so, it’s a good idea to consult your trusted healthcare provider who knows what is best for you.
Whether you take Ozempic because you live with type 2 diabetes or because it was prescribed for weight loss, your healthcare team will likely say that it’s okay to consume alcohol, “in moderation.” What, though do they mean by moderation? Generally, the term means around 2 drinks a day, though this seems unclear Depending on your needs and risk factors, Ozempic use may prompt a doctor to modify the generalization.
What might you assume about binge drinkers and Ozempic?
In a 2020 research study, Vincent N. Marty, et al. sought to learn if GLP-1 (semaglutide) could help people suffering from alcohol use disorder (AUD). They report that semaglutide appears to play a role in alcohol suppression in rats. The authors learned that the rats (injected with semaglutide) showed a preference to water over 10% ethanol (alcohol) for 48 hours. These study rats also preferred water on the day of injection. This may have implications for human preference and treatment among patients who drink in excess.
Can alcohol affect people who take Ozempic for different purposes?
When someone who’s living with diabetes consumes alcohol, blood sugar levels can fall, possibly falling dangerously low. Alcohol consumption can affect blood sugar for up to 12 hours. But, according to John Hopkins, this doesn’t mean that they can’t consume alcohol. People who take Ozempic to lose weight are not affected in the same manner. But they can gain unwanted weight by consuming too much alcohol. Moderation is key.
How long after stopping Ozempic can someone drink alcohol?
For those taking Ozempic to help manage type 2 diabetes, their healthcare provider likely prescribed the medication for long-term use. This is because people living with type 2 diabetes need medication, like semaglutide, to manage their disease. Others, prescribed ‘off-label’ Ozempic for weight loss, may also learn they should continue the medication indefinitely. This might seem too long, though; when patients reach their desired goal, they can stop Ozempic, right?
Most weight gain will return; experts call the phenomenon rebound. Subjects of the Step 1 Trial who showed greater weight loss between weeks 0-68, tended also to experience greater weight gain a year after they stopped taking the medication. For people who choose Ozempic for its weight loss properties, their healthcare team is likely recommending they stay the course. The team may also recommend that it’s okay to drink, with moderation. What does the term moderation mean? A 1998 study that set out to understand the non-standardized term ‘moderation’ found there is a general consensus in healthcare of 2.2 drinks a day.
What About Drinking Wine?
Many people consider wine consumption to be part of a healthy lifestyle. Red wine, especially, improves cardiovascular health, gut health, and a 2-year study (2015) goes as far to suggest that moderate wine consumption (red wine, especially) is not only safe, it may decrease cardiometabolic risks. Just remember, if you’re taking Ozempic or just counting for a friend, a glass of Merlot will add 122 calories.
- Consequences of Alcohol Use in Diabetics – PMC
- Hopkins Medicine
- diabetes.org › healthy-living › medicationAlcohol and Diabetes | ADA
- Long-Acting Glucagon-Like Peptide-1 Receptor Agonists Suppress Voluntary Alcohol Intake in Male Wistar Rats – PMC
- Abel, E L, et al. How do physicians define…. DOI: 10.1111/j.1530-0277.1998.tb03692.x
- Wine Consumption doi: 10.7326/M14-1650. Epub 2015 Oct 13. Gepner Y, et al., Effects of Initiating Moderate Alcohol Intake on Cardiometabolic Risk in Adults With Type 2 Diabetes: A 2-Year Randomized, Controlled Trial.