There is a link between certain medications and hair loss (telogen effluvium) such as acne medications, antibiotics, antifungals, anti-hypertensive medications, cholesterol-lowering drugs, and anti-depressant and mood disorder medications. Among anti-depressants, those classified as SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors), are one class of these drugs shown to cause telogen effluvium.
Hair loss can occur when your body undergoes a stressful event such as childbirth, mental stress, illness, surgery, poor nutrition, or due to side effects from medications. Your hair follicles enter the resting phase (telogen) prematurely due to these triggers, causing hair loss.
The link between certain SSRI medications and hair loss
Some SSRIs that have been linked to hair loss include Prozac (Fluoxetine), Lexapro (Escitalopram Oxalate), and Zoloft (Sertraline hydrochloride), among others. These medications have been used for a wide variety of psychiatric disorders including mood and anxiety disorders.
Over the years, several cases have been reported worldwide of people who took SSRIs and experienced distressing hair loss as a side effect (see a list of medical case studies below).
Alternative solutions for anti-depressant related hair loss
If you have taken or are currently taking an anti-depressant and have experienced excessive hair shedding or hair loss, there are alternative solutions. Sudden hair loss can be distressing. It can make you overly anxious, worsen effects of depression, non-compliance, and relapse.
The first recommendation may be to incorporate a multi-vitamin while on medication, as reported in one case study. In the case study, a female patient aged 50 undergoing citalopram treatment took a multi-vitamin formulated for adults ages 50 and over, which stopped her hair loss.
The second alternative may be consulting with your doctor about lowering the dosage of your anti-depressant or switching to another medication, if possible. In one case study, the physician observers noted that hair loss increased when the anti-depressant dosage increased. However, you must report your personal side effects to your physician and determine if lowering the dosage or making a switch is right for you.
The third alternative is to consider using a hair health supplement concurrently with your anti-depressant. Hair health supplements are a great way to replenish the needed vitamins and minerals your hair needs. However, look for a supplement specifically for hair – one that also contains ingredients that help support healthy hair in a comprehensive way from the root. One such ingredient to look for is Ashwagandha.
Ashwagandha: A natural reliever of anxiety, depression and stress
Ashwagandha is a powerful herb used for thousands of years in Ayurvedic medicine to treat a number of diseases, including depression and anxiety. Ashwagandha has powerful protective effects on the central nervous system, specifically our brain cells. In an experimental study, Ashwagandha suggested it as effective as prescription anti-depressant medications and some tranquilizers. The study suggested that a five-day ashwagandha oral regimen had anti-anxiety effects similar to the anti-anxiety drug lorazepam (Ativan) and anti-depressant effects similar to imipramine (Tofranil).
Researchers reported in another study published in a 2009 issue of “PLoS One,” that participants who suffered stress and anxiety and undergone treatment with 300mg of ashwagandha and naturopathic care saw significant improvements to their mental health, social functioning, fatigue and overall quality of life compared to those who took other forms of treatment. The researchers noted that ashwagandha was a safe and effective natural treatment for stress and anxiety.
Additionally, ashwagandha is a powerful antioxidant and destroy free radicals, known to have damaging effects on hair follicles. It also has benefits for hair thinning.
Ashwagandha lowers cortisol, thus lowering corticosteriod levels, a prime factor in hair thinning and stress.
A double-blind placebo controlled study with chronically stressed patients who took 125mg to 500mg of a patented form of ashwagandha (Sensoril), saw significant improvements to their stress, and biomarkers associated with cardiovascular health, blood pressure, and C-reactive protein. Those who took 500mg of ashwagandha had cortisol levels 30% lower than those who took a placebo.
Ashwaghanda is also believed to get rid of dandruff and improve scalp circulation for improved hair quality. Nutrafol for Men and Women are both formulated with Sensoril Ashwagandha to help improve your hair’s health that may be affected by elevated stress hormones.
Case studies on anti-depressant medications and hair loss:
- Gupta, S, Masand, PS. Citalopram and Hair Loss. Prim Care Companion J Clin Psychiatry. 2000 Apr; 2(2): 61–62. Accessed at: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC181211/ on January 30, 2016.
- Pitchot, W. Hair Loss Associated With Escitalopram but Not With Venlafaxine: A Case Report. Prim Care Companion CNS Disord. 2011; 13(4). Accessed at: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3219523/ on January 30, 2016.
- Turkoglu, S. Fluoxetine- and Sertraline-Related Hair Loss in a Teenager: A Case Report. Bulletin of Clinical Psychopharmacology, Vol: 23, N.: 1, 2013. Accessed at: http://www.psikofarmakoloji.org/pdf/23_1_12.pdf on January 30, 2016.
- Kivak, Y, Yağcı, I. Üstündağ, MF, Özcan, H. Case Report: Diffuse Hair Loss Induced by Sertraline Use. Case Reports in Psychiatry Volume 2015 (2015), Article ID 703453, 3 pages. Accessed at: http://www.hindawi.com/journals/crips/2015/703453/ on January 30, 2016.
- Mermi, O, Atmaca, M, Kılıç, F, Gürok, MG, Kuloğlu, M. Fluoxetine induced hair loss: a case report. The Journal of Psychiatry and Neurological Sciences 2014;27:266-269. Accessed at: http://www.dusunenadamdergisi.org/ing/DergiPdf/DUSUNEN_ADAM_DERGISI_145e09f31037463cbdb8b734adfe9e58.pdf on January 30, 2016.
1. Life Extension: Ashwagandha Stress Reduction, Neural Protection, and a Lot More from an Ancient Herb – http://www.lifeextension.com/magazine/2006/6/report_ashwa/page-01
2. Livestrong.com: Is Ashwaghanda Good for Anxiety & Depression?- http://www.livestrong.com/article/435585-is-ashwagandha-good-for-anxiety-depression/
3. Adaptogen Reviews.com: Ashwaghanda Benefits for Men and Women – http://www.adaptogenreviews.com/ashwagandha-benefits-for-men/
4. Life Extension: Stress Management: Alternative Stress Management Strategies – http://www.lifeextension.com/protocols/emotional-health/stress-management/page-02