Is Ozempic/Wegovy Causing Suicidal Ideations?

This blog contains a discussion on suicide. If you believe that you or someone you know is having suicidal thoughts, call the suicide and crisis lifeline at 988. If there’s imminent danger to you or others, dial 911 immediately. Anyone with suicidal ideations should seek professional care from a mental health center.

We’ve discussed it on this blog, and anyone considering their weight loss options over the past several months will have heard of the Ozempic / Wegovy / Mounjaro weight loss craze. Millions worldwide are losing significant weight using these drugs, and dozens of celebrities are assumed to be taking them – many have admitted to doing so. Still, as with many pharmaceuticals, the rollout to the general population can bring to light specific adverse and side effects that were not observed or did not seem relevant during a trial with a much smaller cohort.

Let’s Discuss a Little More About How Weight Loss Drugs Work.

Semaglutides or GLP-1 receptor agonists stimulate the feeling of satiety through a complex series of hormonal regulations and signals to the brain. This allows patients to lose weight quickly and with few cravings. Ozempic began its therapeutic life in 2017 as a treatment for type two diabetes. In time, it was obvious that patients on the drug were losing significant weight, and Ozempic continues to be prescribed off-label for weight loss. The same drug manufacturer, Novo Nordisk, then applied to the FDA to create a GLP-1 agonist of the same composition but a higher dose, specifically for weight loss. Wegovy was ultimately approved in 2022. Eli Lilly has a similar drug named Mounjaro, currently approved for type-2 diabetes and in the pipeline for approval in weight loss that essentially does the same thing.

Millions of people now take these drugs, And some experience ten or even 15% of body weight loss. The results have been so stunning that these drugs have been given top billing in news cycles, and there are shortages in the US and worldwide. Supply can’t keep up. With new research showing that these drugs may have significant cardiovascular benefits, they may soon be covered by insurance for a wider range of patients.

Concerns of Suicidal Ideations

With a massive increase in usage worldwide, we also tend to see new and potential side effects. Some patients, for example, had vivid dreams about celebrities while on these drugs. The reason for this is likely a combination of factors, but ultimately, it’s evident that these drugs have a profound effect on the endocrine system, which may have follow-on effects.

Such concern is over possible suicidal ideations and thoughts of self-harm in patients taking these diabetes and weight loss drugs. Recently, the UK regulatory body, the Medicines, and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency, began an investigation into the safety of these drugs. This comes just a couple of weeks after the European regulatory counterpart, European Medicines Agency, did the same. Of course, we will not know the validity of these claims until the agencies have thoroughly investigated; however, reaching this point shows that the concern is prevalent enough to get on safety agencies’ radars.

Most Importantly, We Need to Discuss Reactions to Suicidal Ideations.

Ben Brafman, Chief Clinical Officer at The Sylvia Brafman Mental Health Center says, “To be sure, many people with mental health concerns and substance abuse issues have suicidal ideations. In most, these are less an actual threat and more a cry for help. That said, anytime suicide is discussed or contemplated, it should be taken extremely seriously, and appropriate professionals or the authorities should be contacted for intervention or at least further investigation. Concerningly, though, when suicidal ideations are rooted in a chemical imbalance seemingly induced by medication, the balance tips in favor of genuine suicidal tendencies and is not simply a cry for help. It can be hard to distinguish between medically and non-medically induced suicidal ideation, so all manifestations should be treated as serious.”

Ben continues: “In some cases, families we work with have lived through constant struggles with a loved one who expresses the desire to kill themselves. In many cases, this never materializes, and the family becomes numb to it. However, it is not unheard of for the fifth or even the 10th suicidal ideation to result in the loved one actually going through with it. I tell our families that safe is always better than sorry, and rather than give up on their loved ones, explore every avenue to get them help. When families think about a life without their loved one, they are often reminded that the struggle is worth it.”

What to Do if a Loved One Expresses Suicidal Ideation, Whether on Ozempic, Wegovy, or Other Diabetes or Weight Loss Drugs?

First and foremost, these suicidal ideations must be treated seriously, even if the individual has expressed intent of self-harm with no consequence in the past. If the individual represents an imminent risk themselves for someone else, dial 911 immediately. Otherwise, it’s important that you call the suicide & crisis lifeline as soon as possible at 988. Regardless of how the specific suicidal ideations pan out, it is important that the patient seeks help from their medical provider to adjust or discontinue their weight loss medication if indeed, it is found to be the cause. Patients with suicidal ideation should also be referred to a qualified mental health treatment center like The Sylvia Brafman Mental Health Center to get continuing care until they are stabilized.

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