Part 1: Drinking bourbon while taking Ozempic – What changes?
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Alcohol is a great social lubricant. Conversations are easier. Barriers come down. I was having one of those conversations recently with a friend who told me that he had started taking a drug called Wegovy for weight loss. Never heard of it? You probably have if I call it by another name: Ozempic.
He obtained it through a local Health and Wellness Clinic that also acts as a Compounding Pharmacy. I have also been reading about this new drug and its weight loss benefits for a while now. Its popularity is so big, you can’t help but notice it.
While all of this interesting to listen to, there was one thing he mentioned that I was struck by. He said that his appetite for bourbon, and most alcohol in general, had gone way down since he began taking it. I asked if he felt that Wegovy was responsible for it or if it was something else. He pointed me to an article that he recently read that seemed to show there was a correlation.
I’m always on the lookout for new topics to cover in the world of bourbon and this seemed to fit the bill. So I checked out the article he was referring to and asked him if I could interview him and his experiences. He agreed but had one condition, he wanted to do it anonymously. The reason why will be covered in a little bit.
This is a reminder that The Bourbon Culture should not be counted on for medical advice
Before we start, I want to make it clear that I am not advocating that anyone starts or stops taking Wegovy, Ozempic or any other related drugs based on the contents of this article. I am aware that there is a negative stigma from families who have a loved one who is diabetic and may be having a harder time obtaining their prescriptions. At the time of this writing, there is a nationwide shortage with no clear end in sight.
Let’s start off with telling you about Ozempic. Many are hailing it as a wonder-drug that can drastically help diabetic people begin to control their health and wellness. Shortages of these drugs should rightly be placed on the shoulders of Social media Influencers who are – intentionally or not – endorsing a culture where being skinny is all that matters. They have found that taking these same drugs makes their crash diets easier to maintain.
Alternatively, there are people who have struggled with weight gain for years who have found that nothing works for them. This drug is helping obese and morbidly obese people to get their lives back on track. Losing weight solves many more problems for them other than just appearance. It might be saving lives.
I can only hope that a middle ground can be achieved where both sides can have cheap, reliable access to this drug in the future. But since I am a bourbon writer, I want to cover a third group of people who may benefit from using it – people who may want to cut back on their drinking but are finding it hard to do so. As I’ll get to later on in this article, these kinds of drugs are showing fascinating traits where they’re almost re-wiring the way the brain handles addicting behaviors.
I find all of this very pertinent to talk about in a hobby that involves alcohol consumption. Something you might not know about me is how much I grapple with the morality behind devoting a large part of my free time persuading people which bottles to buy and consume. I want people to make good decisions in life and bourbon is a hobby that could quickly spiral out of control and into addiction. With that being said, I hope that everyone from all walks of life are able to find something to take away from what I have to say.
Part 2: Interview with Greg
My friend had agreed on giving a short interview on his experience with Wegovy (the key ingredient for appetite suppression found in Ozempic) and how it has affected his consumption of bourbon.
* for the purposes of this article, he has asked to remain anonymous. I will refer to him as “Greg” throughout.
** this interview has been edited for clarity and brevity while keeping with the intent of the interviewee
The Bourbon Culture: So tell me a little bit about how you first learned about and started using Wegovy.
Greg: Over last winter, I had seen an increase in news articles talking about Ozempic, Semaglutide and Tirzepatide. I started to read them and the more I read, the more curious I got.
One night, I was talking to my wife about it and she said this was a big topic among her and her friends. She did her research and said she’d like try it. She even knew a few friends who had started taking it with great results. She asked me point blank if she found a way to get a prescription for it, if I would do it with her. I didn’t really have any reason not to, so I said yes.
The Bourbon Culture: Earlier on, when I asked you if I could do this interview, you told me that you wanted to remain anonymous. Why is that?
Greg: It’s not really a big deal to me, but my wife told me that if we started this, she didn’t want me to tell anyone we were doing it. I told her that we shouldn’t be ashamed about it but she insisted. She said that since I’m not a woman, I wouldn’t understand. If a woman is trying a new weight loss technique that they don’t tell other women they’re doing it.
She also told me that when drugs are involved, there is a stigma among her friend groups that it’s a form of cheating; that it’s wrong. She said that some of her friends with a diabetic relative (or who are diabetic themselves) have voiced complaints about people who don’t need this medication hogging it all for themselves while they struggle to get a prescription filled. So my wife said it’s better to just not tell anyone. That’s why I’m asking that you don’t use my name! *laughs*
The Bourbon Culture: But didn’t you say that your wife already knows that her other friends take this already? How did that come up if it’s supposed to remain a secret?
Greg: I don’t know how that all works but I asked her the same thing. She says that she trusts those friends not to tell because if they all know each other do it, it’s like a suicide pact or something.
The Bourbon Culture: Tell me your experience getting a prescription of this. Is that right? This is a prescription?
Greg: *laughs* Oh man, that whole process was a trip. It’s like these places are set up to feel like a real doctors office. I felt like I was the only guy in a thousand yards of that place. I might have been too because the waiting room was all women when I arrived. It felt like everyone was giving me a disapproving look when I sat down. Luckily, I didn’t have to wait too long.
I filled out some questions and I wasn’t sure if I was supposed to lie about why I was really there. I didn’t know if I could just write “I’m fat and want to stop eating so much” on the questionnaire. Then they called me back and did a few simple checks for blood pressure and stuff and I saw the Nurse Practitioner that ran the place. After a few questions, I was done. Next thing I knew, I was at the receptionist desk forking out almost $500 and being told my injections would arrive in a few days. I’ve never done drugs before, but I imagine that even a drug dealer off the streets would look at this process and be impressed.
The Bourbon Culture: That sounds easy! So what happened after you got your shots?
Greg: Well, they arrived in a refrigerated box and the instructions say you have to keep them cold. My wife and I both got ours around the same time, so we do our injections on the same day of every week. There’s a number you’re supposed to start at and then you can gradually increase it if you feel like you’re still too hungry or whatnot. And to be honest with you, we it did make our appetites go way down. But there was this thing with bourbon that you’re probably most interested in.
The Bourbon Culture: Haha, yep! That’s what I was hoping you would expand on next. Tell us about what happened with you and drinking bourbon.
Greg: So I was a pretty regular drinker. 3-4 pours on the nights I drank. Sometimes a little more, sometimes a little less. Getting together with friends like yourself to drink was probably twice that amount. Sometimes there are just too many good bottles to go around!
But the urge or anticipation to have that drink leading up to the night started to go away once I started my injection. I didn’t feel like I wanted to drink. What was even more strange was that after my first drink, I barely wanted a second. Most of the time after my second, I had this full feeling. It was like I had just ate a large meal.
There were times where I felt almost nauseous after drinking just one or two glasses. It wasn’t all the time either, just randomly. I don’t know what the link between the two are, but it has taken some of the fun out of drinking bourbon. I’ve also drank some beer and wine during this time too and felt the same full feeling.
The Bourbon Culture: This is really interesting. Can you tell me about the results you’ve had since you started the injections?
Greg: Over the past 2 months, I’ve noticed about 15 pounds have come off. I don’t know if I can credit the injection for making me eat less or drink less. How about both? *laughs*
It hasn’t been all positive though. I sometimes feel like my stomach is either hard or swollen, so my appearance may not look like I’ve lost that much weight, but the scale says I have. I also feel more tired, more often. I’m concerned that when the day comes where I stop using this injection that the weight will come back instantly. None of the women my wife knows has stopped yet, so we don’t know what to expect.
The Bourbon Culture: Have there been any changes in how bourbon tastes or smells?
Greg: I think so. Just a little bit. Sometimes bourbon tastes sweeter than I remember. Sometimes rye whiskey tastes more spicy than I remember. Sometimes high proof bourbons – which I love – taste like they have more proof than I remember them having. But I still find notes like oak or cherries or cinnamon or whatever tasting like they used to.
The Bourbon Culture: Are you happy or sad about this decreased “bourbon libido?”
Greg: *laughs* I don’t know what to think. I have a lot of bottles that aren’t getting drank. I also don’t know how much I want to buy new bottles since I have so many at home that I haven’t touched. It’s weird. I can almost see myself growing out of bourbon at this rate, but then what will I do for fun? *laughs* I guess we’ll just have to wait and see.
Part 3 – Clues that point to Wegovy and other Semaglutide drugs decreasing addictive behaviors
Recently, articles in The Atlantic, The New York Post, The New York Times and CBS News have reported on stories about Ozempic users reporting decreases in addictive behaviors. The studies mainly point to decreases in alcohol consumption.
To be clear: Semaglutide (Wegovy) wasn’t invented to do this. But some users noticed not just a decrease wanting to drink or smoke, but other behaviors such as excessive shopping and biting nails. This is not to say that Ozempic is actively being used to treat behaviors such as this, but rest assured researchers are going to look into this even more now. In fact, drugs like Semaglutide have been researched in lab animals for the same purposes. Researchers are speculating that these drugs may rewire our brains “reward” center. What once gave us a pleasurable release may not do it anymore.
Semaglutide, Bourbon and You
Those studies had me intrigued enough that I decided to do a small survey of my own. Across a couple bourbon groups I’m in, I inquired if anyone was taking Ozempic or any of the other forms of the drug. If they were, I asked them a series of five questions, they were:
- How long have you been a whiskey drinker?
- How recently have you started to take Ozempic/Wegovy/Tirzepatide/Semaglutide?
- Have you noticed a decrease in the average amount of drinks you consume per session compared to after you started the injections? Numbers are welcome, but not necessary.
- Have you noticed feeling differently after consuming alcohol while using the injections? If so, can you describe it?
- Have you also stopped or decreased any other compulsive or addictive behaviors while using the injections? i.e. smoking, shopping, nail biting, etc?
Here were the responses:
Out of 14 people who voluntarily returned my survey, I found a mix of respondents taking brand name Ozempic (5), Saxenda (2) and Wegovy (7). For clarification, the Wegovy respondents were getting theirs from a compounding pharmacy just like Greg in the interview above. All respondents told me they had been whiskey drinkers anywhere from 2 to 40+ years. That means that nobody was a new drinker. Why is that important? Because experienced drinkers should be able to tell if their rhythm is off from what they consider normal consumption being. At least, I believe that they should be able to.
Out of all the respondents, 12 out of 14 noticed a decrease in bourbon (and other alcohol) consumption. The 2 that did not were both taking Wegovy from a compounding pharmacy. Exact numbers were hard to get from them. Almost all subjects were vague about how much of a decrease they witnessed. But the fact they could tell that they had was impressive. One told me that their average weekly drinking had gone from 15-20 drinks to 5 at the most.
One of the more interesting items I noted was about a third of the respondents told me they experienced times where they poured a glass and decided that they didn’t want to drink it. I would classify this under the “felt different about consuming alcohol while using the injections” question.
6 out of 7 respondents who were taking Wegovy from a compounding pharmacy indicated a change in the way they felt while drinking. Out of the 6, 5 described themselves as feeling nauseous at certain times during or after drinking. All 6 described a feeling similar to eating a large meal after 2-3 drinks. 4 of the 6 noted that after 2 months of use that these feelings began to fade.
For the other 7 who were taking name-brand versions of the drugs, only 1 noticed a discomfort or nauseous feeling when they drank after starting. This may indicate that the more pure forms of semaglutide may be more effective.
As a final category, I was impressed to find that not one of my 14 respondents claimed that they were a smoker. So I could not adequately gauge if the injections would lessen the draw of such an addictive drug like nicotine. I also did not inquire about other recreational drug use because I was not intending to poke and prod into their personal lives like that. When I inquired if any other behaviors such as excessive shopping or nail biting had lessened, all respondents said they couldn’t think of any. That might have been a bridge too far with such an informal survey like this. Still, I seem to have found most of what I was looking for.
This is just the beginning
Based on everything I have learned and uncovered in the last month, these drugs that were designed for certain medical conditions may be a pathway to helping solve others. To lose the desire in something as commonplace as alcohol consumption could be viewed as an overall net positive. Not a single respondent indicated that they were disappointed in drinking less. And while some may take news of this as a warning to the alcohol industry in the future, I look at it in a more optimistic light. People will still be interested in bourbon, but at a rate that is much more safe and healthy than they normally would have been. And that’s something I think we can all get behind.
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