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Semaglutide: Everything You Need To Know

Semaglutide, the active ingredient in medications like Ozempic and Wegovy, has become a worldwide sensation.  Initially intended for managing type 2 diabetes, the drug is now making headlines for its ability to help people lose weight. 

Semaglutide is being hailed as a “miracle drug” for weight management and has become a game-changer in this field.  People from all walks of life praise its transformative impact on their weight loss journeys. With the sudden surge in popularity comes many questions. 

In this article, we will explore everything you need to know about semaglutide.  This will include what it is, how it works, where it originated, and when it began to be used for weight loss.  We will also discuss who is and is not a candidate for this medication and, most importantly, how to obtain and take it safely.

What is Semaglutide?

Semaglutide is a medication that falls into a class of drugs known as glucagon-like peptide-1 receptor agonists, which help control sugar levels in the body. 

These medicines mimic a natural hormone that you have in your body called GLP-1, which tells the body to release insulin (manage sugar) and reduces the amount of sugar produced by the liver, ultimately improving the body’s ability to manage blood sugar – which is extremely important for people with diabetes. 

When prescribed at a higher dose than that used for diabetes, semaglutide is shown to help those with chronic weight issues shed unwanted pounds. 

Semaglutide is a prescription-only medication. It cannot be obtained over the counter. The decision to prescribe semaglutide is based on a thorough evaluation of an individual’s health condition, including factors such as diabetes control or the need for weight management.

If you believe semaglutide may be appropriate for your health needs, it’s important to consult with a qualified healthcare provider. They can assess your specific situation, discuss potential benefits and risks, and determine the most suitable treatment plan for you. 

How Does Semaglutide Work?

Semaglutide works by mimicking a natural hormone in the body called GLP-1. For people with diabetes, semaglutide helps control blood sugar levels by prompting the release of insulin and reducing the production of sugar by the liver.

In the context of weight loss, especially for those with obesity, semaglutide’s ability to help people shed pounds is not entirely understood, but it is believed to involve several factors that contribute to reducing body weight. 

Here are some key ways in which medical experts believe semaglutide can aid in weight loss:

Appetite Reduction

Semaglutide appears to affect the part of the brain that regulates appetite, leading to a decreased feeling of hunger. This can result in individuals eating less and, over time, losing weight.

Slowed Digestion

The medication may slow down the emptying of the stomach, which can make a person feel full longer after eating. This feeling of fullness can help control food cravings and prevent overeating.

Regulates Insulin and Blood Sugar

By helping regulate insulin and blood sugar levels, semaglutide can improve control over caloric intake, as insulin plays a role in how the body uses and stores energy.

Where Did Semaglutide Originate? 

In 2012, a group of scientists affiliated with the pharmaceutical company Novo Nordisk formulated semaglutide to address the needs of individuals with type 2 diabetes. Clinical trials followed in January 2016 and concluded in May 2017.

Then, in December 2017, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the injectable version of semaglutide with the brand name Ozempic for use by people with diabetes.

It wasn’t until a few years later that researchers noticed that semaglutide, when prescribed at a higher dose, had notable effects on weight loss in addition to its diabetes management capabilities.

This discovery led to further investigations into its potential as a weight loss medication. Just a few years later, in 2021, the FDA approved semaglutide at a 2.4 mg dose specifically for chronic weight management in adults with obesity or overweight conditions.

This marked a significant shift in its usage, with semaglutide gaining popularity as a medication for weight loss, with many well-known celebrities such as Oprah Winfrey, Chelsea Handler, Amy Schumer, Elon Musk, and others all reportedly using a medicine containing semaglutide to help them lose weight. 

Is Semaglutide Different From Ozempic or Wegovy? 

Yes and no. Semaglutide is an active ingredient found in brand-name medications. You could think of it like how ibuprofen is the active ingredient in Advil, but you can find ibuprofen under other brand names as well.

For example, Ozempic and Wegovy are brand names of medications that contain semaglutide. Both medicines contain semaglutide but are formulated and FDA-approved for specific purposes – Ozempic for diabetes management and Wegovy for weight management.

In short, Wegovy and Ozempic are essentially identical medications under different brand names, with the primary difference lying in the dosage of semaglutide in each injection pen and the specific approvals granted for their use.

Another brand containing semaglutide is Rybelsus, an oral tablet approved for diabetes.

Who Should Take Semaglutide?

Semaglutide is a medication primarily prescribed for two primary purposes: the management of type 2 diabetes and chronic weight management. Regarding weight loss, the decision to take semaglutide is often based on the need for a comprehensive approach to weight management when lifestyle changes alone may not be sufficient.

Generally, individuals eligible for semaglutide typically have a body mass index (BMI) of 27 or higher and at least one weight-related condition. Alternatively, those with a BMI of 30 or higher may qualify without a specific weight-related medical condition. 

Here are some reasons why you might consider taking semaglutide for weight management:

You Are Struggling with Weight Loss 

Semaglutide is very effective for individuals who struggle with weight loss, where lifestyle changes alone may not be enough to achieve and maintain a healthier weight. 

You Have Weight-Related Health Conditions

If being overweight contributes to or exacerbates other health conditions, semaglutide may be considered as part of an overall treatment plan.

You Have Issues with Appetite Control

If you are always hungry or have an uncontrollable sweet tooth, semaglutide can likely help. Semaglutide is shown to help reduce appetite, which can be beneficial for those who struggle with overeating or frequent food cravings.

You Have Slowed Digestion

Semaglutide is shown to slow down stomach emptying, leading to a feeling of fullness, which can help control food intake and support weight loss efforts.

Who Should Not Take Semaglutide?

Semaglutide may not be suitable for everyone, and certain individuals should avoid or use caution when considering this medication. Before starting semaglutide, it’s crucial to have a thorough discussion with a healthcare professional to determine whether semaglutide is a suitable and safe option. 

It’s essential that you are open and transparent about your health conditions and any medications or supplements you are taking to ensure the best possible outcomes and minimize potential risks.

That said, here are some groups of people who are typically not a candidate for semaglutide or advised to use it with caution:

History of Pancreatitis

Individuals with a history of pancreatitis, which is inflammation of the pancreas, should avoid semaglutide due to the potential risk of exacerbating the condition.

Kidney Disease 

People with kidney disease should exercise caution when considering semaglutide, as the medication’s impact on kidney function requires careful evaluation.

Semaglutide is excreted primarily through the kidneys, and individuals with impaired kidney function may experience challenges in clearing the medication from their system. This can potentially lead to an accumulation of semaglutide in the body, posing a risk of adverse effects.

Severe Gastrointestinal Disease

Those with severe gastrointestinal diseases or disorders may need to exercise caution or explore alternative treatment options, as semaglutide could affect the digestive system.

Pregnant or Breastfeeding

Semaglutide’s safety during pregnancy or while breastfeeding is not well-established. Pregnant or breastfeeding individuals should consult with their healthcare provider before using this medication.

History of Medullary Thyroid Carcinoma (MTC) or MEN 2

Individuals with a history of medullary thyroid carcinoma (a type of thyroid cancer) or multiple endocrine neoplasia syndrome type 2 (MEN 2) should avoid semaglutide due to the potential risk of worsening these conditions.

Allergic to Semaglutide

Individuals with a known allergy or hypersensitivity to semaglutide or any of its components should not take this medication.

Drink Alcohol in Excess

Excessive alcohol consumption should be avoided while taking semaglutide. Semaglutide may interact with alcohol, impacting blood sugar levels and potentially causing side effects.

Alcohol’s influence on blood sugar, combined with semaglutide’s effects, can lead to unpredictable outcomes. Individuals considering semaglutide should discuss their alcohol intake with their healthcare provider to ensure the safe and effective use of the medication.

Take Certain Medications

Some medications can interact with semaglutide, potentially altering its effectiveness and duration of action or causing increased side effects. Always inform your healthcare provider about all medicines you are taking to ensure safe and effective treatment.

Several classes of medications may interact with semaglutide, including:

  • Anticonvulsants
  • Antidepressants
  • Antipsychotics
  • Beta-blockers
  • HIV medications
  • Corticosteroids
  • Diuretics
  • Hormones 

Additionally, caution is warranted when combining semaglutide with insulin, as this may elevate the risk of hypoglycemia. Other diabetes medications, including glimepiride and metformin, may also interact with semaglutide, impacting blood sugar levels.

Benefits and Risks of Semaglutide

Semaglutide is recognized for its efficacy in promoting weight loss. It offers a potential solution for those grappling with obesity or excess weight. However, like any medication, there are potential downsides. 

If you are considering semaglutide for weight management, there are benefits and considerations you should be aware of to help you make an informed decision.

Benefits of Semaglutide

Quick and Effective Weight Loss 

Semaglutide offers the advantage of delivering prompt and noticeable results in weight management. Clinical studies have shown that individuals using semaglutide experience a significant average weight loss of 14.9% within a year, with about one-third achieving an even more remarkable weight reduction exceeding 20% (PubMed). 

Appetite Regulation

If you find yourself struggling with satiety and cravings, semaglutide helps in controlling appetite, providing assistance to individuals in making healthier dietary choices.

Delayed Stomach Emptying

Semaglutide is shown to slow down stomach emptying, fostering a sense of fullness that aids in portion control and calorie reduction.

Enhanced Blood Sugar Control

Particularly beneficial for those with type 2 diabetes, semaglutide contributes to improved regulation of blood sugar levels by boosting insulin release and reducing glucose production in the liver.

Convenient Once-Weekly Administration

You only have to take semaglutide once a week. It is administered on a weekly basis, offering a convenient dosing schedule that may be more manageable than daily medications. 

Potential Cons of Semaglutide 

As with any medication, there is a risk of adverse effects. Here are some side effects reported that some people are unable to tolerate: 

Gastrointestinal Effects

Some individuals may experience mild gastrointestinal side effects, including nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea, especially during the initial stages of treatment. These effects tend to diminish within a few weeks of treatment. 

Injection Site Reactions

As with any injectable medication, there may be minor irritation or reactions at the injection site. Rotating injection sites can minimize this concern.


The mechanism of semaglutide for weight loss involves reducing hunger, leading to a decrease in calorie intake. As a result, some individuals may experience initial feelings of fatigue, which typically diminish as the body adjusts to potential changes in diet.

Rebound Weight Gain 

If you stop taking semaglutide, it’s possible to gain some (or all) of the weight back. This is why it is vital that you pair semaglutide with healthy habits that you can maintain long-term, such as a nutritious diet and regular exercise.

Low Blood Sugar

While relatively uncommon, there exists a potential risk of low blood sugar levels (hypoglycemia), particularly when used alongside other medications that lower blood sugar.

Are There Any Long-Term Side Effects of Taking Semaglutide? 

Medications containing semaglutide haven’t been on the market very long. Therefore, there is little data on any long-term side effects of taking semaglutide. The longest trials conducted on semaglutide have spanned two years.

Interestingly, during these trials, individuals who received a placebo (an injection without medication) reported more serious side effects compared to those who received semaglutide.

Ongoing research is being conducted to understand any potential long-term side effects of medications containing semaglutide, specifically their impact on the thyroid and gastrointestinal tract. 

How Effective is Semaglutide for Weight Loss?

As with any medication or weight loss method, individual responses can vary. However, semaglutide has consistently demonstrated significant efficacy in promoting weight loss. 

The “proof” is evident in the thousands of before and after pictures posted by celebrities and everyday people alike, as well as several clinical research studies.

In a pivotal year-long trial, individuals undergoing semaglutide treatment experienced an average weight loss of 14.9%, with approximately one-third achieving an impressive weight reduction exceeding 20% (PubMed).

Another substantial study involving 2,000 obese adults emphasized the effectiveness of semaglutide when integrated into a comprehensive weight loss strategy. Over 68 weeks, half of the participants using semaglutide achieved a 15% weight loss, and nearly a third experienced a substantial 20% weight reduction.

Semaglutide no doubt works. However, it is crucial to recognize that sustained weight management may necessitate ongoing treatment. Additionally, semaglutide’s effectiveness is optimized when taken in conjunction with a healthy diet and regular exercise program.

How to Take Semaglutide for Weight Loss

While semaglutide for weight management is approved at a higher-dose formulation of 2.4 mg for chronic weight management in adults with obesity or overweight conditions, it’s important to note that this dosage isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution.

You should never attempt to self-dose semaglutide. Deciding on the right dose should always be done under the guidance of a qualified healthcare professional. In many cases, it’s recommended to start with a smaller dose and adjust gradually based on individual response.

In terms of how it’s taken, semaglutide is typically administered through a once-weekly injection. The injection can be administered by a healthcare professional in a clinical setting, or, after proper training, you can do it yourself at home.

Where to Get Semaglutide for Weight Loss 

In the United States, obtaining semaglutide requires a valid prescription issued by a licensed healthcare professional. This medication cannot be acquired over the counter or without the guidance of a healthcare professional.

If you want to try semaglutide for weight loss, you are advised to get your prescription from an expert in medical weight loss. These professionals are the most qualified to assess your specific weight loss needs, determine the appropriate dosage, and ensure the safe and effective use of semaglutide for weight loss. 

At Relive Health, we specialize in medical weight loss and have a very straightforward yet detailed screening process to ensure you are a candidate for semaglutide. 

Your semaglutide journey begins by finding the Relive clinic closest to you. Once you are connected with a clinic near you, we will order a 52-panel blood panel and body composition analysis.

When we have your results in hand, we will schedule a time for you to meet with one of our medical weight loss experts to go over your comprehensive pathway and discuss whether or not semaglutide is the right choice for you. 

What To Expect At RELIVE Health

Once you contact the staff at RELIVE Health, you will first be scheduled for an in-person consultation with one of our expert team members. During your consultation, the intent is to understand your weight loss goals and establish a relationship.

At this same visit, we will draw your blood and send it off for testing. The next time you come back you will meet with a qualified medical professional. We will discuss your pathway and whether or not the treatment is right for you. If semaglutide is not right for you, we may uncover an alternative approach that will give you the results you are looking for. Whatever it takes, we will work will you to help you achieve your desired weight.


If you face challenges in weight loss, battle a ravenous appetite, or experience limited success with traditional diet and exercise, semaglutide is worth considering. Its effectiveness in promoting weight loss, supported by clinical trials, makes it an excellent tool in your weight journey. 

Semaglutide is a prescription medication; however, its popularity is surging, leading to an unfortunate rise in its availability on the black market and from non-reputable sources. It’s crucial to emphasize that the FDA strongly cautions against acquiring semaglutide from unregulated sources.

You should always consult with a qualified weight management expert before considering semaglutide and only get your medication from a healthcare professional. If you’re ready to safely explore semaglutide as a part of your weight management journey, take the first step by connecting with a Relive Health clinic near you.