Wait, Can You Drink While Taking Ozempic or Metformin?
There seems to be no end to the rampant demand for diabetes drugs like Ozempic and metformin among those looking to lose weight. Side effects like “ozempic face” and gastrointestinal issues notwithstanding, experts say these medications are generally safe to take as prescribed. But questions still abound and how the meds can impact your day to day—including whether your can drink alcohol while taking them.
Despite an increasing number of people knocking back low- and no- alcohol alternatives, we’re still a nation of drinkers. More than 63% of American drink at least occasionally, according to a recent Gallup poll.
If you’re among them and are taking Ozempic or metformin, here’s what experts say you need to know.
If You Have Diabetes
If you have diabetes, drinking alcohol automatically comes with caution. It can cause hypoglycemia (low blood sugar), which can cause symptoms like shaking, sweating, irritablity, and dizziness, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
The American Diabetes Association notes that drinking alcohol can lower your blood glucose for up to 24 hours, and that low blood sugar can be exacerbated if you are taking diabetes meds like Ozempic or metformin.
In other words: If you’re taking these meds for diabetes, you really need to be cautious.
That’s especially true for metformin users: According to the FDA, drinking while on this drug can impact the accumulation of lactic acid, a chemical your body produces when your cells break down carbohydrates for energy.
“One of the more serious side effects of taking metformin is a buildup of lactic acid, which can damage your kidneys, lungs, heart and blood vessels at high levels,” explains Sudeep Singh, M.D., an internist with Apprize Medical in Miami, Florida. “Alcohol can also lead to a buildup of lactic acid, so the combination of the two can be very toxic especially if someone is not properly hydrated.”
If you are taking Ozempic, you have a little more leeway to imbibe.
“Drinking alcohol while on Ozempic is generally safe, but it is also important to understand some of the effects alcohol has on blood sugar,” says Singh. “Alcohol can block the ability of our body to make glucose in the liver, which can drop your blood sugar.”
He notes that in studies, Ozempic has been found to cause low blood sugar in 4% of users.
If You’re Taking Ozempic or Metformin for Weight Loss
Unfortunately, even if you are taking Ozempic or metformin for weight loss, not diabetes management, you still need to be careful when it comes to consuming booze.
“Alcohol, especially in the form of beer and wine, can have as many carbohydrates as a can of soda,” says Singh. “So if you are taking Ozempic [or metformin] for weight loss or diabetes, you can be forcing an uphill battle.”
That’s because it impacts insulin levels.
“When your blood sugar goes up from carbohydrates, your body makes insulin to bring the blood sugars down,” says Singh. “Too much insulin can lead to fat storage, which is obviously the opposite of what we are trying to achieve when taking these medications for weight loss.”
Drinking Safely on Ozemic and Metformin
So how much (if anything) is safe to drink if you are on Ozempic or metformin?
“Generally speaking, it’s advisable to limit all alcohol while on these medications. But if you are planning on drinking, limiting yourself to 1 to 2 drinks at most would be the safest thing to do,” says Singh.
The American Diabetes Association notes that one drink is equal to 1 ½ ounces of liquor, 12 ounces of beer, or 5 ounces of wine. The organization also suggests picking options with lower alcohol content and fewer calories, such as light beers or dry wines. Drinks with lots of sugar like liqueurs, sweet wines and mixed drinks with lots of sugar (i.e. piña coladas or wine coolers) should be avoided.
Surprisingly, it may all be a moot point. Some Redditors are saying that semaglutide (the generic name for Ozempic) has dampened their desire to drink. “I was always confused when I would see people taking all night to finish one drink,” one poster added. “Now I can totally relate.”
Another said he used to drink two to three drinks a night. Since starting semaglutide, they’ve had three drinks in three months. “No buzz, no enjoyment,” they wrote. “So I’m a non-drinker now, I guess.”