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What Happens When You Stop Taking Ozempic?

An endocrinologist answers all

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Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’re likely familiar with Ozempic, the miracle weight loss drug that has made headlines, shown up in your news feed and been whispered about over cocktails with your girlfriends as you guess who in your social circle is on it. (If you’re not taking it yourself then you most certainly know someone who is.)

But considering that the drug is relatively new (it was approved by the FDA for diabetes treatment in 2017 and hit Hollywood a couple of years later) and that there is currently a shortage of it, you may be wondering what happens when you stop taking Ozempic. Do all the shed pounds pile back on? Will you regain the desire to inhale an entire pint of Ben & Jerry's every night? And what about those pesky side effects—will they go away? I chatted to an endocrinologist to get the skinny, as it were.

Meet the Expert

Maria Teresa Anton, MD, is a board-certified endocrinologist who completed her medical training in New York and spent many years working at an inpatient/outpatient clinic before becoming a member of the Pritikin Longevity Center medical team in Miami, Florida. Dr. Anton was also an assistant professor at the Department of Medicine Donald and Barbara Zucker School of Medicine at Hofstra/Northwell as well as the chief resident at Hofstra Northwell School of Medicine at Forest Hills Hospital Internal Medicine Residency Program.

How does Ozempic work again?

Ozempic is a brand name for semaglutide and a prescription drug that’s primarily used to manage type 2 diabetes by helping to regulate blood sugar levels. It belongs to a class of drugs called GLP-1 receptor agonists that (amongst other things) slow the emptying of the stomach and reduce appetite. But the reason Ozempic, along with another FDA-approved injectable medication that contains semaglutide, Wegovy, is making waves these days has less to do with its role in diabetes management, and more to do with the fact that millions of people who aren’t diabetic are using it to lose weight (from celebrities to regular folks and everyone in between). 

So what happens when you stop taking Ozempic?

“When an individual stops taking Ozempic, they will no longer experience the physiologic effects of the medication which can include blood sugar regulation, reduction in appetite and weight loss,” says Dr. Anton.

In other words, Ozempic only works when you’re using it. When you stop taking it, the effects of the medication will wear off which may lead to any or all of the following:

  • Increase in appetite
  • Weight gain
  • Blood sugar increase
  • Decrease in medication side effects including nausea, constipation, diarrhea, dizziness, and vomiting

When it comes to weight management, Dr. Anton cites research that found that patients may experience weight regain “of up to two thirds of the weight lost within the first year of discontinuing use of Ozempic.” Does that mean you’ll automatically regain most of the weight that you’ve lost once you stop taking the medication? Not necessarily. “It is important to continue healthy lifestyle and dietary habits after discontinuing the medication so as to help maintain health outcomes,” the expert explains.

 And how quickly does it take to experience the side effects of stopping Ozempic?

“The duration of effect of Ozempic varies depending on each individual's genetics, dose and duration of use,” Dr. Anton tells me. She explains that for most patients, the effects of the drug will start to diminish about one week from the administration of the last dose, but it could take several weeks for unwanted side effects (like nausea and constipation) to disappear completely. “Patients should reach out to their health care provider if they experience unwanted symptoms for longer than a month after discontinuation of the medicine,” she adds.

As for your appetite, Dr. Anton says that you can expect it to return to baseline “a few weeks after stopping Ozempic.” 

Is it OK to take Ozempic for just a little while until I reach my weight loss goals?

Ozempic is meant for long-term use, the expert tells me. “Obesity is now considered to be a chronic disease that should be treated as such,” says Dr. Anton. “Therefore, medications prescribed for obesity will likely be long-term or lifelong medications for individuals who seek to maintain the weight lost on these medicines and the host of other potential benefits obtained from these.”

For those who are worried about long-term effects of continuing the medication, Dr. Anton advises patients to work with their healthcare provider to understand their own risks and benefits of staying on Ozempic. “Recent studies have shown positive data indicating no increased risk of thyroid cancer or other types of cancer over a four-year period on GLP1 medications like Ozempic,” the expert says, adding that long-term studies are needed to provide insight about the risks and benefits of remaining on these medications for longer periods of time.

What should people know before stopping Ozempic?

Whether you’re taking Ozempic for diabetes management or to lose weight, you should talk and work with your health care provider before stopping the medication, Dr. Anton cautions.

“If an individual was prescribed Ozempic for blood sugar control, adjusting the diabetes management plan will be important, along with counseling on appropriate dietary and exercise modifications. If a patient was prescribed Ozempic for weight loss, they will need counseling on how to maintain healthy eating habits and an active lifestyle in order to help manage weight.”

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Executive Editor

Alexia Dellner is an executive editor at PureWow who has over ten years of experience covering a broad range of topics including health, wellness, travel, family, culture and...