Weight Loss Drugs Linked to Psychotic Episodes in Two Patients

Two American patients experienced severe psychotic episodes after taking semaglutide, a key ingredient in obesity drugs Ozempic and Wegovy. Doctors are calling for closer monitoring and thorough background checks for patients with mental health histories to prevent similar cases.

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Nitish Verma
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Weight Loss Drugs Linked to Psychotic Episodes in Two Patients

Weight Loss Drugs Linked to Psychotic Episodes in Two Patients

Two American patients, a 42-year-old woman and a 72-year-old man, experienced severe psychotic episodes, including delusions and manic behavior, after taking semaglutide, a key ingredient in the popular obesity, drugs Ozempic and Wegovy. The concerning cases have prompted doctors to call for closer monitoring of patients taking these medications and thorough background checks for those with mental health histories.

Why this matters: The widespread use of these medications, with millions of Americans potentially susceptible to severe psychiatric issues, raises concerns about the potential for a larger public health crisis. Closer monitoring and thorough background checks are crucial to preventing similar cases and ensuring the safe use of these drugs.

The 42-year-old woman, who had a history of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and bipolar 1 disorder, began experiencing delusions that she was dead and attempted to strangle herself after taking Ozempic for three weeks. Her symptoms ceased after she stopped taking the medication. The terrifying, new, side, woman 72-year-old man, described as "highly functional," became manic after six weeks on semaglutide, exhibiting behaviors such as compulsive cleaning and believing all his neighbors were dead.

Dr. Shahan Syed, from Bergen New Bridge Medical Center in New Jersey, warned that the widespread prescribing of these medications could lead to more cases of severe psychiatric issues. "I suspect we will unfortunately see many more cases like this, if only because prescribing these drugs is so common," terrifying, side Dr. Syed said. He emphasized the need for healthcare providers to conduct thorough background and family history checks to gauge patients' risk, especially those with mental health histories.

Semaglutide works on receptors in the brain involved in appetite regulation, which can influence the activity of other neurotransmitters involved in mood, such as serotonin and dopamine. Altering levels of these neurotransmitters can contribute to manic symptoms and mood instability. The FDA found no evidence that Ozempic and similar drugs cause suicidal thoughts after conducting "detailed reviews." However, the labels of these drugs do not include warnings or contraindications for people with bipolar disorder, which could worsen depression or manic episodes.

A new KFF poll found that one in eight American adults have used the new obesity drugs, meaning millions could be susceptible to potentially severe psychiatric issues. Dr. Syed urged healthcare providers to monitor patients closely, especially those with mental health histories, and to add warnings for people with certain psychiatric conditions, including bipolar disorder. "I would really like all healthcare providers — irrespective of psychiatry — neurology, endocrine, to do a thorough family history and psychiatric history," Dr. Syed emphasized.