broken ozempic on red background

Here’s What Happens When You Go Off Ozempic

The popular type 2 diabetes drug Ozempic, which regulates blood sugar, has proven strikingly effective for weight loss—just ask Elon MuskSemaglutide, the active ingredient in Ozempic and Wegovy has been hailed as a miraculous weight loss drug. As a result, people have been flocking to doctors and other healthcare providers to ask about whether the meds can help them shed a few—or a lot—of extra pounds. The demand for prescriptions has been so high at times that there have been drug shortages. 

But as more people take the medication, we’re learning that it might not be a miracle treatment after all. Not only are there side effects like GI issues, muscle loss, and ”Ozempic face,” but studies show that as soon as someone stops taking semaglutide, any weight that they lost from using the medication is likely to come back.  

Given these side effects and people not being able to access the drug because of its popularity, many are wondering: What exactly happens when you stop taking Ozempic?

What Is Ozempic?

Semaglutide, under the brand name Ozempic, was approved by the FDA to treat type 2 diabetes in 2017 thanks to its ability to regulate insulin.

About the Experts

Dina Peralta-Reich, M.D., is director of New York Weight Wellness Medicine and a fellow of the Obesity Medicine Association

Carlo Manzana, M.D., is a family medicine physician with virtual health platform PlushCare. He is a provider in PlushCare’s weight management program.


Ozempic Withdrawal Symptoms

You may have blood sugar spikes

Ozempic stimulates the release of insulin and lowers blood sugar. When you abruptly stop using it, the amount of glucose in your body can spike, especially if you have diabetes. Some may end up in the ER due to sheer exhaustion from the blood sugar spikes and crashes.

These spikes can cause patients with diabetes to experience “blurry vision, fatigue, and excessive thirst and urination,” Robert Gabbay, chief scientific and medical officer of the American Diabetes Association, told the New York Times.

The weight you lost may come back

If you stop taking Ozempic, the weight you lost will likely return, fast. “If you stop the medication without making any changes, you will gain the weight back,” says Dina Peralta-Reich, M.D.

People who ceased use of semaglutide gained back, on average, a full two-thirds of the weight they had lost on the drug within one year, according to an August 2022 study (1). The trial was funded by Novo Nordisk, the company that makes Wegovy and Ozempic.

“Some people don’t have an awareness that this might have to be a medication that will be lifelong,” the lead author told the Wall Street Journal.

Your cravings will likely come back 

Semaglutide delays stomach emptying, causing you to feel full more quickly and stay satiated for longer. But once off the drug, even if you stick to a strict diet and fitness regimen, your previous appetite will come back. The piles of French fries that once seemed irresistible may well look that way again.

“When patients stop GLP-1 agonists for weight loss purposes, abruptly, the most commonly mentioned symptom for many people is hunger cravings coming back,” says Carlo Manzana, M.D.

“Most likely, you’re going to end up eating what you were before and maybe more because the body has been in something like a starvation mode and it’s trying to catch up,” Gregory Dodell, M.D., an endocrinologist in New York City, told the Journal. “It’s not a matter of willpower and self-control.”

Side effects of Ozempic will disappear

Ozempic’s unfavorable side effects—which include nausea, vomiting, constipation, and diarrhea—will halt when you stop taking the weight loss drug. People who didn’t even know they were having relatively mild side effects (like headaches and upset stomach) realize what Ozempic was doing to them once they quit, Kraftson said. In those cases, saying goodbye to Ozepmic can be a huge relief.

Is Wegovy the same as Ozempic?

Ozempic and Wegovy are the same medication (Semaglutide), sold under different names. The big difference is the amount of semaglutide in each dose, and what they’re approved for: Ozempic is FDA-approved for treating type 2 diabetes and Wegovy is approved for weight loss.

Both medications are what is known as GLP-1 antagonists. They help with weight loss in a few ways. Beyond regulating insulin, they also lower blood sugar levels and send signals to the parts of your brain that regulate appetite, helping you to feel full even when you only eat smaller amounts. 


Things to Know About Stopping and Restarting Ozempic

It’s important to be mindful of a few things if you plan to stop and restart Ozempic or another semaglutide medication. One is that you may need to start the process again. “If you’re in a low dose and gradually increasing to where you want to be, stopping it would be like going backwards,” Peralta-Reich says. 

If you stop taking the medication for more than two weeks, it’s recommended that you restart at the lowest dose and work your way back up again, Manzana says. This is to lower your risk of having any severe side effects or complications from the medication, he explains. 

But Peralta-Reich says it’s OK to stop for a few weeks if you’re in a weight maintenance mode. “There is no contraindication for stopping,” she says. “But keep in mind that by stopping it, depending on the root cause of your obesity, you might gain weight during the weeks that you stop.”

What Are the Impacts of Stopping Ozempic?

Quitting any prescription drug can be tricky. Just as with starting a new medication, stopping one causes a sudden shift in the body. New reporting in The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal suggest that ceasing Ozempic can be especially hard on the body, leading to rapid weight gain and other jarring disruptions.

The impacts are so profound that one physician, Andrew Kraftson, M.D., described being “overwhelmed” by patients who wondered where to get their next semaglutide dose and how to cope without the medication, the Times reported. “When people cannot get it,” Kraftson said, “it’s a big S.O.S.”

Generally, healthcare providers advise not swearing off semaglutide without first talking to a physician. As with the cessation of other medications, gradually tapering down, rather than going cold turkey, as well as supplementing with other meds can help curb unwanted effects, Alexandra Sowa, M.D., an obesity medicine physician in New York, told the Journal.

How to Stop Ozempic

If you decide you want to stop taking Ozempic or Wegovy because the side effects or costs are too much, or because you’ve lost weight and want to try to maintain the loss without the meds, your first point of action is to talk to your doctor. Like any medication, your want your M.D.’s ok and guidance.

If you don’t have type 2 diabetes, you may not need to taper the dose. However, if you are living with diabetes, your healthcare provider may lower your dose or space of how often you take it to avoid blood sugar spikes.