What happens when you stop taking Ozempic?
LAST UPDATED: Mar 27, 2023
8 MIN READ
HERE'S WHAT WE'LL COVER
If you have been taking Ozempic for type 2 diabetes or weight loss, you may wonder what could happen if you stop taking the drug. Like many prescription medications, stopping a drug like Ozempic, or lowering its dose, should be done under the care of a health provider.
Sometimes, drug shortages force people to stop their medication abruptly, or take less than they used to.
Read on if you’re tapering down on Ozempic and wondering what to expect. We explain what can happen if you stop taking Ozempic, and what you can do to keep the weight off.
What is Ozempic?
Ozempic is a prescription diabetes medication that, in combination with diet and exercise, treats type 2 diabetes by controlling blood sugar levels. Ozempic works by mimicking a hormone that regulates your appetite — glucagon-like peptide-1, or GLP-1 for short — which is produced by your gut. Whenever your blood sugar levels get too high, GLP-1 binds to GLP-1 receptors in the brain, signaling to your pancreas that it’s time to release more insulin. This helps people with type 2 diabetes keep their blood sugar levels in check.
Ozempic also reduces sugar production in the liver and slows down the digestion process. Together, these effects further prevent blood sugar spikes and curb your appetite. Since your stomach takes longer to empty, you feel fuller sooner and longer. As a result, people taking Ozempic tend to eat less and lose weight.
Ozempic is administered via a subcutaneous (under the skin) injection in the upper arm, thigh, or abdomen. Each Ozempic pen comes pre-filled with your dosage. To minimize side effects, health providers typically prescribe Ozempic at a lower starting dose (0.25mg, once per week), slowly increasing it to the full dosage or the dosage that’s best tolerated.
Side effects of Ozempic may include (FDA, 2020):
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) currently has approved Ozempic to improve blood sugar control in people with type 2 diabetes, in combination with diet and exercise. It is also FDA-approved to reduce the risk of serious cardiovascular events, such as a heart attack, in people with type 2 diabetes and heart disease. Off-label, Ozempic can be prescribed to people with obesity and overweight.
Ozempic Important Safety Information: Read more about serious warnings and safety info.
Get access to GLP-1 medication (if prescribed) and 1:1 support to meet your weight goals
4 things that can happen when you stop taking Ozempic
Ozempic has proven to be a very effective treatment for managing blood sugar levels and reducing the risk of heart attacks and strokes in people with type 2 diabetes, as well as significantly reducing body weight in people with obesity. However, whether due to the costs of Ozempic, the side effects, the drug’s availability or another reason, some people may want or need to stop taking Ozempic.
You should always consult your health provider before you stop taking a prescription drug, including Ozempic. Once you stop Ozempic, the benefits from the medication typically decrease within a week after the last injection—which is why Novo Nordisk recommends taking the drug every 7 days, on the same day.
With supply issues and drug shortages, that might not always be possible. If you’re taking Ozempic off-label for weight management, or taking other semaglutide based drugs, some healthcare providers might recommend that you increase the time between injections. The drawback (more on that below) is that you may experience increased hunger or decreased fullness between after day 7.
Here’s a look at what can happen when you stop taking Ozempic.
1. Your appetite will likely come back
The active ingredient in Ozempic — semaglutide — not only stimulates the release of insulin. It also slows down gastric emptying, so you feel full faster. It is also thought to further reduce appetite by interacting with areas of the brain in charge of feeling full and satisfied.
When you stop taking Ozempic, that interaction no longer happens. When you start to have less medication in your system, your appetite will likely start to increase (which may lead to weight gain).You won’t feel full as quickly, and you’ll stay hungry longer.
2. You’ll probably regain some of the weight you lost
Ozempic should be part of a comprehensive treatment plan that also includes diet and exercise, so keeping up with your diet and exercise routine can help prevent some of the rebound weight gain that can happen when you stop taking Ozempic. However, your appetite and food cravings will return, so you will likely regain some of the weight you lost on Ozempic.
For example, one study found that within 68 weeks of taking the highest weekly dose of semaglutide (2.4mg per week) individuals lost an average of 17.3% of their body weight. One year after they stopped taking the drug, they regained two-thirds of that weight. It’s important to say that those who regained two-thirds of that weight also stopped lifestyle interventions in addition to stopping the drug.
The amount of weight gain depends on how long you were on the medication, how much weight you lost, and how long you stopped medication.
3. The appearance of Ozempic face may go away
“Ozempic face” is a nonmedical term that describes the gaunt, wrinkled appearance your face can take on when you lose a significant amount of weight in a short period of time. The drooping or sagging of the facial skin occurs because your face holds a lot of fatty tissue, which gives your face volume. But when you lose weight, these fat cells shrink faster than the skin on top of them, resulting in a wrinkled appearance.
While “Ozempic face” occurs with any kind of weight loss — particularly rapid weight loss — it has become associated with Ozempic or other GLP1 medications due to the drug going viral on TikTok and social media for its weight loss effects. Facial fillers can help restore the volume that occurs with weight loss. However, if you regain weight after stopping Ozempic, some of that weight will return to your face, reducing the appearance of Ozempic face.
4. You may experience more blood sugar spikes
As a diabetes drug, Ozempic helps people with type 2 diabetes keep their blood sugar levels in check. When blood sugar climbs after a sugary meal, Ozempic encourages the pancreas to release more insulin to bring it back down.
If you have type 2 diabetes and you stop taking Ozempic, your body may have a tougher time managing your blood sugar levels, which can lead to blood sugar spikes.
Keeping weight off after Ozempic
Weight loss can offer a number of benefits for people dealing with excess weight and obesity, including improved self-esteem, quality of life, and mitigating medical conditions linked to excess weight, like high blood pressure. If for whatever reason you need to stop Ozempic, there are steps you can take to keep the weight off.
Stick to your exercise routine
Ozempic is most effective when combined with diet and exercise. Maintaining your exercise routine can help you prevent rebound weight gain after stopping Ozempic. Regular exercise lowers body weight by decreasing body fat and improving muscle mass.
Follow a healthy diet
While there is no official diabetes diet, avoiding certain eating behaviors and foods — and replacing them with healthier ones — can help you manage both your blood sugar levels and body weight.
For example, health experts recommend people avoid fatty, fried foods and so-called high glycemic foods like sugars, starches, and refined carbohydrates. Eating more whole foods with high fiber, lots of protein, and a low glycemic index can help you feel full sooner and longer, staving off cravings and weight gain.
Consider Ozempic alternatives
Around one in four people with type 2 diabetes taking a GLP-1 medication like Ozempic switch to an alternative within a year of starting treatment. If Ozempic wasn’t a good fit for you, it’s possible that an Ozempic alternative could be.
Ozempic is one of several GLP-1 receptor agonists, a drug class that can treat type 2 diabetes and weight loss and includes Bydureon, Victoza, Saxenda, Mounjaro, Tanzeum, Trulicity, and Wegovy. These medications improve blood glucose control and slow digestion, which can reduce appetite and lead to weight loss. These can have slightly different side effects and be tolerated differently by different people, so it may be worth talking to your health provider about another option.
Follow weight loss best practices
Every weight loss journey is unique to the individual. However, there are some tried and true techniques that many find effective when managing their weight. Consider whether any of the following weight loss steps may be helpful for you.
Set specific, sustainable goals that focus on health, rather than weight loss. For example, strive to exercise a set number of days per week, eat a certain number of fruits each day, or limit your alcohol intake.
Find ways to stay motivated. Try pairing your treadmill exercise with a favorite podcast, tracking your weight, or asking a friend to help you stay on track. Remember to celebrate the small wins along the way.
Sleep well. Poor sleep is associated with higher body weight, increased appetite, and reduced insulin sensitivity. Plus, with better sleep, you’ll feel more energized and positive, which helps you stay motivated and stick to your weight loss plan.
Stay hydrated. Drinking water is essential for our survival, but research suggests that it also helps with skin health, weight management, cognition, and mood. Keep water by your side and drink it throughout the day.
Fad diets stop here
If appropriate, get effective weight loss treatment prescribed for your body.
Do the side effects of Ozempic go away after stopping?
Around one in three people experience nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea when taking Ozempic. If you’re one of those people, the side effects should stop once you stop taking the drug.
To minimize side effects, health providers usually start Ozempic at the lowest dose and slowly titrate up the dosage. Side effects are more common when taking higher doses of Ozempic and when increasing your dose. For many, the side effects range from mild to moderate, and become less intense and common as their body gets used to the drug. However, for around 4% of people, the side effects can be bothersome enough to lead them to stop taking Ozempic.
You may be able to minimize the side effects of Ozempic by avoiding certain foods while taking Ozempic, such as refined carbohydrates, alcohol, and fried, greasy, or sugary foods and drinks. Also, adjusting your eating habits can mitigate side effects. Novo Nordisk, the manufacturer of Ozempic, recommends eating smaller portions, eating more slowly, drinking ice-cold water, and not lying down after meals.
When should you stop Ozempic?
For most people, stopping Ozempic (or any medication that’s meant to be taken long term) abruptly without a medical reason is not ideal. Stopping Ozempic is not directly harmful, but you may begin to notice weight gain. That’s why stopping Ozempic or other weight loss drugs should be an individual decision you should come to with the help of your healthcare provider. If your health provider agrees it’s time to stop taking Ozempic, they will provide you with instructions for tapering off your dose.
In general, you should not stop taking Ozempic without consulting a healthcare provider first. However, there are a few exceptions. For example, if you plan to get pregnant, the FDA recommends stopping Ozempic at least two months before you get pregnant to ensure the semaglutide fully washes out of your system. Also, if you notice any of the following serious side effects, you should stop taking Ozempic and consult a health professional immediately:
Severe abdominal pain, with or without vomiting
Changes in vision
Itching, rash, or difficulty breathing, which may indicate a serious allergic reaction to Ozempic
Studies have shown that obesity is a chronic condition, best managed with long-term pharmacological treatment, much like high blood pressure. If you have high blood pressure, you also need to keep taking your medicine to keep your blood pressure down—and the same idea applies to treating overweight and obesity with Ozempic. You'll need to stay on the drug to keep seeing weight loss effects from Ozempic.
As mentioned earlier, supply shortages of a drug can sometimes lead to gaps in your treatment, which are out of your or your healthcare provider’s control. If you stop taking it, you will most likely regain some of the weight you’ve lost.
If you are worried about a potential gap in your treatment, please reach out to your provider directly. They can work with you to understand whether it makes sense to change to your care plan and discuss the specific details of those shifts.
If you have any medical questions or concerns, please talk to your healthcare provider. The articles on Health Guide are underpinned by peer-reviewed research and information drawn from medical societies and governmental agencies. However, they are not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.
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