It is common knowledge that some medications can cause hair loss. If you just started taking Wellbutrin and male pattern baldness runs in your family, you may have a hard time telling if it is thinning hair because of that or because of your new medication.
So, does Wellbutrin cause hair loss? The short answer is yes, hair loss occurring because of Wellbutrin has been reported. However, the long answer is that Wellbutrin has actually helped a few people reverse hair loss.
But what is Wellbutrin, and how can one medication both help and cause hair thinning? More importantly, what can you do about hair loss caused by Wellbutrin? I’ll try to answer all those concerns and more.
What Is Wellbutrin?
Wellbutrin is a brand name for Bupropion hydrochloride. Other brand names of Bupropion are Zyban, Aplenzin, and Forfivo.
Where most antidepressant drugs are selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), this type prevents your body from absorbing noradrenaline and dopamine. This allows these two chemicals to stay longer in your bloodstream.
It is found in a few different forms, the most common of which are:
Whatever its form, Wellbutrin’s objective is to balance the chemicals in your brain, specifically the chemicals that transmit signals between your nerves.
What Is Wellbutrin Prescribed For?
Your healthcare provider may prescribe small amounts of Wellbutrin for various mental illness problems. The most common uses of it are for:
Seasonal affective disorder (SAD)
Major depressive disorder (MDD)
Smoking cessation aid
There are other medical conditions that Wellbutrin can help with, and clinical trials have yet to determine all the conditions it is good for. In the meantime, it is sometimes used “off-label” (not FDA-approved to treat) for things like ADHD and bipolar disorders.
The Side Effects
There is a high chance you will experience at least one side effect of Wellbutrin. In the initial clinical trials, nearly one-third of people on this antidepressant medication had side effects.
The side effects of Bupropion are the same no matter what form you take, but the faster-acting forms may show side effects sooner. Some of the side effects are obvious almost immediately, while others take weeks to show signs.
The Common Side Effects
The most common side effects are ones that tend to be mild but are also ones you will almost assuredly experience at least one of while you are taking Bupropion. Some of these are:
Muscle or joint pain
Allergic reactions may not be the top side effect, but they are still possible. Out of the common allergic reactions, skin rashes are the most prevalent for users of Wellbutrin.
Finally, addiction is quite common, especially for people taking Bupropion for long periods of time. Your physician may have you go through a detox process when it comes time to stop taking it. The withdrawals are another list of symptoms you are likely to have.
The Serious Side Effects
Unfortunately, most of the severe side effects of Wellbutrin take a while for you to notice them. For this reason, if you have any of these serious problems, you should get immediate medical attention.
High blood pressure
Those who have a history of seizures are never prescribed any form of Bupropion. In fact, shortly after it was approved for use, Wellbutrin was recalled and only re-launched three years later when it caused many people with eating disorders to have seizures.
Wellbutrin Hair Loss
More than one study shows that Wellbutrin is more likely than other antidepressants to cause hair loss. All antidepressant drugs have induced hair loss as a potential side effect.
Still, the fact that Wellbutrin sticks out as one of the prescription drugs most likely to cause medication-induced hair loss, even among these other drugs, might be enough to make you wary about taking it.
The chemicals that Wellbutrin uses can also affect the hormones that are responsible for your hair cycle, which is why it causes hair loss. The specific type of hair loss Wellbutrin causes is called telogen effluvium.
Telogen effluvium is where your hair cycle is interrupted, and your hair enters the telogen phase early. This hair loss occurs mostly around your forehead, but you can have widespread thinning. Usually, telogen effluvium will start showing itself within two to four months of starting whatever medication is causing it.
The good news is that the hair follicle is not damaged by Wellbutrin-induced hair loss. Therefore, within a few weeks to a few months, your Bupropion hair loss can resolve itself by going naturally from its resting phase into its growth phase.
If your hair hasn’t left the telogen phase within a year of when you stop taking Bupropion, you should talk to your healthcare provider. Severe telogen effluvium may need outside help to get your hair back into its proper cycles.
The Indirect Effects
In addition to directly impacting your hair cycle and causing telogen effluvium, Wellbutrin can cause hair loss indirectly in other ways. For example, Losing weight might be a side effect of Wellbutrin you want, and off-label use to help people who want to lose weight.
Unfortunately, this can cause hair loss by making you have nutritional deficiencies. If you lose weight too quickly, it can have the same effect as a crash diet and cause your hair to fall out due to physical stress.
Taking dietary supplements can help prevent this. However, if you already have a digestive disorder in your medical history, even if you currently have no symptoms, there is an increased risk of this being a problem for you.
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What You Can Do About Wellbutrin Hair Loss
Telogen effluvium may be something you have to deal with until you can stop taking Wellbutrin. However, there are ways you can minimize hair loss if you need to take this drug.
Talk To Your Healthcare Provider
The first thing you should do if Wellbutrin is affecting your hair growth is to get professional medical advice. Hair loss can affect your mental health, and if you are taking Wellbutrin or some other form of Bupropion for a mental problem, your healthcare provider may agree that you are better off with another prescription drug.
Some other antidepressants have a lower record of causing hair loss, so switching to one of those may be better than taking Bupropion. Also, each brand has slightly different inactive ingredients.
Since it may be one of these ingredients causing your induced hair loss, other brands of Bupropion may not have the same adverse effects. If Wellbutrin is helping your condition and only causing hair loss, a different brand may be all you need.
Finally, don’t stop taking your medication just because you are experiencing hair shedding from Wellbutrin. If you are taking Bupropion, it is because you need it for some reason, and Bupropion withdrawal is a serious thing.
Use Hair Loss Treatments
There are many hair loss treatment options for any reason you could be losing hair. Some, like minoxidil, may cause drug interactions with your Wellbutrin, though, so you should ask your doctor if whatever treatment you have in mind is safe to use with it.
Hair growth shampoos, hair loss vitamins, a better diet, and take care of your hair follicles and scalp as best you can. There are all sorts of hair products that are specifically designed to help your hair stay in the growth phase, and these are a great place to start.
Also, try to reduce your mental stress, which you should probably be doing anyway if you struggle with a mental illness. Lastly, taking care of your general health by getting enough sun and exercise will also help.
Can Wellbutrin Cause Hair Growth?
It may seem like a contradiction, but there are occasional cases where this drug helped treat hair loss. This was usually done by providing indirect help to what was causing the hair loss. For example, one of the medical conditions Wellbutrin is sometimes used for is eating disorders.
This disorder can easily affect your hair by preventing you from getting the nutrients you need. In this case, when Bupropion treats the disorder, your eating habits can improve, and any hair loss caused by a poor diet is able to grow back.
Trichotillomania is a hair disorder where a person compulsively pulls their hair out. Though Wellbutrin is not used to treat any other hair disorders, it is sometimes used to treat this one, which improves your hair growth and allows your follicles to heal.
Smoking is also a bad habit that can indirectly affect your hair. Smoking cessation is the only thing that can allow your body to recover and your hair to start growing.
Finally, if you are struggling with your mental health, there is a high chance you may also be stressed. Stress can cause hair loss, so helping you fix your mental health will indirectly help your hair.
Drug-induced alopecia is common, but most of the time, it is possible to reverse hair loss caused by this. Wellbutrin hair loss is, fortunately, something that usually doesn’t require medical help to treat.
That said, making your hair grow after using it is not easy for some people. If you use this medication, have you had any hair thinning because of it? If so, I hope something here helps you, and I’d love for you to leave a comment telling me what helps you!