“Semaglutide’s story becomes even more complicated in drug addiction. Addictive drugs such as cocaine and opioids are generally thought to “hijack” the brain’s natural reward pathways, says Heath Schmidt, a neuropharmacologist at the University of Pennsylvania. Over time, the brain needs more and more dopamine to function, leading to addiction.
Previous research has found that activating GLP-1 receptors in rats’ brain causes the animals to eat less of a high-sugar chow, which they would normally prefer over a less delicious but healthier bland meal when given the option. This suggests that GLP-1 makes unhealthy food less rewarding. Schmidt’s team found the same to be true with cocaine: rats that received a GLP-1 agonist took less cocaine when it was offered. The researchers are now repeating the experiments in rats addicted to opioids or fentanyl. Several other studies have shown that GLP-1 agonists cause rats to drink less alcohol and produce less dopamine when they do drink, suggesting that the activity is no longer as pleasurable.”
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