One of the most common drugs which is often cited to cause hair loss is trazodone. Just a simple internet search will return tens of pages of people complaining about this issue.
Used extensively in the treatment of several mental disorders and psychological issues, this drug has several uncertain side effects reported by patients.
Unfortunately, the medical community is still debating whether these side effects, particularly hair loss, are real.
In this article I’ll discuss the evidence of thinning and balding due to Trazodone, looking at national data and case studies, along with my own thoughts.
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What Is Trazodone & How Does It Work?
Trazodone is one of the most important drugs used in the treatment of several psychological or mental disorders.
Typically, trazodone is prescribed to people who are diagnosed with major depression disorder, dementia, insomnia, anxiety, as well as other mood-related conditions.
It affects important chemical messengers and neurotransmitters inside the brain, such as serotonine, dopamine, norepinephrine and acetylcholine.
Although its exact action mechanism and biological response are not fully understood, trazodone acts much like other common antidepressants available on the market, such as Zoloft and Prozac.
However, trazodone is chemically and structurally unrelated to any other antidepressant and, as such, is not habit-forming. In other words, it doesn’t cause addictions.
Trazodone In Use
The drug is available in various tablets (50, 100, 150 and 300 mg) and its dosage varies according to patient’s needs.
The most common dose is 50 to 100 mg daily, with some improvements in mood, sleep patterns occurring after a period of 1 to 2 weeks.
After 4 to 6 weeks, the maximum effect of the drug is reached. Of course, there are some side effects present, such as dizziness and drowsiness, but also headaches, blurred vision, sexual dysfunction or dry mouth.
Hormonal Side Effects & Hair Loss
Some patients experience important hormonal changes in their body after several weeks of trazodone use. These changes varied from gradual or slow, to abrupt in several patients.
Related symptoms, such as weight gain or sleep difficulties, have been confirmed as well.
Among the hormonal changes reported, the most common ones were related to the thyroid gland. Typically, the changes, in some cases, developed into hypothyroidism, a condition where the thyroid gland is not working properly.
Low thyroid hormone levels (both T3 and T4) in the body have been linked to hair loss, mood changes, weight gain and other side effects.
Alopecia caused by drugs (also known as medical-induced alopecia) is a common side effect for patients who are on strict dose of antidepressants and mood stabilizers.
The risk of hair loss varies, depending on the drug used. For instance, lithium-based drugs were shown to trigger hair fall in 12 to 19 percent of cases, while carbamazepine causes alopecia in less than 6 percent of cases.
On the other hand, tricyclic antidepressants, such as trazodone, risperidone, clonazepam, buspirone and other modern drugs, cause alopecia in less than 1 percent of cases.
Nonetheless, these numbers should be known by both medical professionals and patients, particularly if hair loss is linked to hormonal changes.
What’s more, trazodone has been shown to damage hair structure and hair follicles in several cases. Similarly, the hair color may also suffer changes.
Several clinical tests have shown that dose reductions or complete termination of treatment always leads to complete regrowth, without help from additional drugs, such as Rogaine.
A study done on 5,924 people, from 2007 to 2016, has reported hair loss, in different stages, in 75 people (about 1.27 percent of cases).
Women were most affected (77.03% women vs. 22.97% men), and patients aged 60 and over were the most prone to thinning and balding after long term trazodone use (typically 2 to 5 years).
The doses used were generally around 50 to 100 mg per day. Hair loss was minimal after a dose reduction to 25 mg per day.
There are a lot of studies which suggest a direct link between antidepressants and alopecia. Of course, the amount of hair loss varies greatly among several types of antidepressants available on the market.
There are multiple types of mood-changing drugs, ranging from lithium based, carbamazepine or modern drugs, like trazodone. Hair loss is a side effect in many of these drugs, but percentages do vary.
Data shows that trazodone can cause hair fall only in about 1 percent of patients, but further study needs to be done to understand the full extent of the issue.
What you’ll need to know is that side effects are normal for all drugs, no matter their action, so you don’t have to worry about them.
Keep in mind that your doctor will know about their side effects and will inform you about the risks involved.
You’ll just have to pay attention to how your body reacts to the medication and, if anything goes wrong, talk to your physician as soon as possible.