Ozempic and alcohol: can they be used together?
Surprisingly, it is extremely difficult to predict what effect Ozempic and drinking alcohol will have on an individual because of their own unique genetic makeup and tolerance levels. However, it is strongly recommended by healthcare professionals to avoid alcohol if you have type 1 diabetes or type 2 diabetes. Moderate amounts of alcohol may cause blood sugar to rise (hyperglycemia) but excessive alcohol can actually decrease your blood sugar levels (hypoglycemia).
If you are a diabetic with poorly controlled blood glucose levels, drinking alcohol will cause even more complications. Read on to find out about Ozempic and alcohol.
What is Ozempic?
Ozempic is an FDA-approved prescription drug made by Novo Nordisk. It is used for the treatment of type 2 diabetes to prevent your blood sugar from rising after eating, by slowing the rate of digestion and the release of insulin in your body. This medicine is also used to lower the risk of a heart attack in type 2 diabetics.
The active ingredient in Ozempic is semaglutide and it is classed as a Glucagon-like peptide-1 receptor agonist (GLP-1 receptor agonist) medication. Semaglutide reduces blood glucose through a mechanism where it stimulates insulin secretion and lowers glucagon secretion by selectively binding to and activating the GLP-1 receptor.
The drug itself is injected under the skin (subcutaneous) usually once every 7 days. The injection sites are the thigh, abdomen, or upper arm. Your dosage is based on your medical condition and your response to treatment. If you miss a weekly dose and there are less than 3 days until your next scheduled dose, do not take the missed dose. The injection can be stored at room temperature or in the refrigerator.
Why have I been prescribed Ozempic?
The number of medications available to treat type 2 diabetes in particular, is long and confusing. So, why have you been given a diabetes medication such as semaglutide? It has more than likely been prescribed for you because the combination of improving diet, increasing exercise, bodyweight reduction, and metformin medication has not achieved adequate blood sugar control for you.
Ozempic is not approved for people with Type 1 diabetes and shouldn’t be taken by women who are pregnant or breastfeeding. Some of the advantages of taking Ozempic are suppression of hunger and modest weight loss which are desirable for diabetics.
Do not use Ozempic if you have a personal or family history of medullary thyroid carcinoma (thyroid tumors or thyroid cancer) or if you have Multiple Endocrine Neoplasia syndrome type 2.
Other common brands of GLP-1 receptor agonists are:
- Tanzeum (albiglutide)
- Trulicity (dulaglutide)
- Byetta (exenatide)
- Bydureon Bcise (exenatide extended-release)
- Victoza (liraglutide)
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How does alcohol affect diabetes?
Alcohol interacts with diabetes medications causing low blood sugar (hypoglycemia). When you drink alcohol your liver will choose to remove the alcohol in your body over maintaining your blood sugar level leading to hypoglycemia. Low blood sugar makes you drowsy, confused and causes difficulty walking which are also signs of being drunk. The confusion of being drunk or hypoglycemic can be very unsafe, and a low sugar episode (hypoglycemia) could go unnoticed if you are drunk. Moderate amounts of alcohol may cause blood sugar to rise but excessive alcohol can actually decrease your blood sugar levels.
Alcohol is an appetite stimulant, so you may end up eating more calories and making less positive food choices. The calorie content of alcoholic drinks can be high and the nutrient content low, leading to an increase in calorie intake and weight gain.
Alcohol can also play a part in diabetic nerve damage, diabetic eye disease, and high blood triglycerides leading to complications.
Symptoms of low blood sugar are similar to the symptoms of too much alcohol:
- Lack of coordination
- Passing out
In the long run, it is a sensible idea to inform friends and family about your diabetes so they do not mistake these symptoms for you simply being drunk. If you pass out those around you need to know that this is a medical emergency.
Common side effects of Ozempic
The most common side effects caused by Ozempic may include:
- Reactions at the site of injection
- Allergic reactions
- Low blood sugar (hypoglycemia) causing shakiness, fast heartbeat
- Feeling and being sick
Some serious side effects with Ozempic may include:
- Risk of thyroid cancer. Ozempic has caused thyroid cancer in animals. It’s unclear if this drug also increases thyroid cancer risk in humans
- Serious allergic reactions cause swelling under your skin, normally in your eyelids, lips, hands, or feet. Swelling of your mouth, tongue, or throat leading to shortness of breath
What are the most common complications of diabetes?
In simple terms, hypoglycemia is low blood sugar (blood glucose). You need to be particularly aware of the possibility of blood sugar levels dropping if you use insulin or take sulfonylureas, eat irregularly, exercise, and drink alcohol.
Diabetic ketoacidosis complications
Frequent and prolonged high blood sugar levels can lead to diabetic ketoacidosis. Your blood becomes acidic due to the presence of ketones. This is because your cells are starved for energy and your body begins to break down fat. This causes a fruity smell on your breath and is one of the classic ways your doctor can make a diagnosis of ketoacidosis.
Diabetic kidney disease
People with diabetes tend to develop some degree of kidney problems. In the US, diabetes is the leading cause of kidney failure in adults, making up half of all new cases.
Diabetes and heart disease
Diabetes and heart disease are undoubtedly linked. As a diabetic, you are twice as likely to have heart disease or a stroke than a non-diabetic. Cardiovascular disease is the number one cause of death in people living with diabetes.
Diabetic retinopathy is more complicated and less treatable than other conditions. High sugar levels can damage the smaller blood vessels which supply the retina. They become weaker and small blisters can form that eventually burst, forming hard lumps. This is a sign that the blood supply to your eye is not as good as it should be.
Can drinking alcohol cause diabetes?
Excessive alcohol intake increases your chance of developing chronic inflammation of the pancreas called pancreatitis. This condition leads to permanent damage to the pancreas and its ability to manage the production, storage, and release of insulin. Pancreatitis can harm the ability of the pancreas to secrete insulin, which can potentially lead to type-2 diabetes. However, there are several other risk factors for type 2 diabetes including, your family history, age, and ethnic background. You are also more likely to develop diabetes if you are overweight. If you’re planning to drink alcohol and you have diabetes, aim to always stay within the recommended guidelines. This is the safest way to drink alcohol.
Always speak to your healthcare provider for medical advice regarding drug interactions, taking supplements, taking over-the-counter medications, and drinking alcohol when taking Ozempic. Healthcare professionals are the most reliable and accurate source of drug information. They can also provide you with a medication guide for each drug you take.
A medical professional has reviewed this article.
Dr. Jamie Winn received his Doctor of Pharmacy in 2002 from the University of South Carolina College of Pharmacy, Columbia, SC. Jamie is a medical reviewer for NiceRx.