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Wellbutrin Hair Loss: Causes, Treatment and Prevention

Last Updated: December 3, 2021

Authored by Nena Messina, Ph.D.

Reviewed by Michael Espelin APRN

Wellbutrin is a popular brand name for Bupropion and its primary use is for the treatment of depression. It belongs to the NDRI class of antidepressants, which moderates the level and activity of the neurotransmitters dopamine and norepinephrine. Except for its ability to treat the symptoms of Major Depressive Disorder (MDD), Wellbutrin for ADHD treatment is also closely related to each other. While it is a commonly used medication, some individuals may indicate Wellbutrin hair loss as an Bupropion adverse effect during the treatment process. According to the FDA, 1 out of 100 patients who use this drug experiences hair loss. In this article, information about the causes, treatment, and prevention of Wellbutrin hair loss will be provided.

Hair Loss (Alopecia) And The Use Of Antidepressants

In a study by Medical Professionals from Germany, drug-related alopecia is possible especially when a patient is using psychotropic drugs. Some of these psychotropic drugs or antidepressants include Valproic acid, Amitriptyline, Citalopram, and Bupropion. So, what are the causes of this antidepressant-induced alopecia?

  • Depression – Patients who are suffering from depression may observe that their skin and follicles become dry and brittle. Moreover, as a patient experiences depression, he or she might feel discouraged, might have low self-esteem, and may feel drained. According to medical professionals from the United Kingdom, this may contribute to alopecia.
  • Telogen Effluvium – Generally, the proper medical term for alopecia that is related to antidepressants is called telogen effluvium. The mental health of a patient who is using an antidepressant is expected to improve and as the patient’s mood becomes stable due to the effect of these antidepressants, telogen effluvium is triggered. When this is triggered, the follicle becomes inactive and the hair will start to shed.

Take a note that it is not just the depression itself that causes alopecia, and it is also not the shampoo. Instead, medications, either supplements or medical drugs such as antidepressants are great factors for alopecia.

Hair Loss (Alopecia) And The Use Of Antidepressants

Does Wellbutrin Cause Hair Loss?

According to a study by Medical Doctors from Canada, some medications along with Bupropion are thought to cause drug-induced alopecia. In the same study, Bupropion had the highest risk of alopecia where 95% of the users experienced shedding as an effect. So for those who are wondering, does Wellbutrin cause hair loss? The answer is yes. As mentioned above, this shedding is usually caused due to a sudden change in hormone levels. The hormone fluctuation causes the follicles to go into a resting state, which leads to alopecia.

People, mostly women, usually experience widespread thinning and loss of more and more hair every day. This condition often comes up when an individual is dealing with stress or is adjusting to a new antidepressant. However, taking a higher Bupropion dose can cause significant Telogen Effluvium in shorter periods. Further, it can appear not only as the result of using Wellbutrin. This medication is also a Central Nervous Compound, which can make Telogen Effluvium even more intensive if Wellbutrin and alcohol are taken together.

What Should Patients Do If Bupropion Hair Loss Happens To Them?

Among Wellbutrin side effects, alopecia  can happen to any individual who is dealing with stress, depression, and is consuming Wellbutrin as a medication. In one study by Psychiatrists from Turkey, it was reported that the depressive symptoms of a patient who used Bupropion have significantly improved. However, despite the positive treatment outcome, alopecia was observed. If one suggests that Wellbutrin hair loss happens to them, the first thing to do is to consult with a physician to find out if Bupropion hydrochloride is the cause of this problem. If Bupropion hair loss happens to one, below is an information about some of the everyday things that an individual can take care of:

  • Address all the nutritional deficiencies- ensure that the diet of a patient includes eggs, nuts, beans, fish, grains, and meat.
  • The deficiency of iron can also be the reason. So, the individual can make changes to diet and start to take iron-based foods.
  • Try to decrease the daily stress level. According to some medical doctors from Germany, stress is associated with alopecia. Go for counseling support for stress and depression management.
  • Consult a physician and get therapy or medical help to stop alopecia.
  • Avoid heat styling treatments to prevent further loss.
  • Massage scalp with essential oils. Cedarwood, lavender, thyme, and rosemary oils can be used to treat alopecia as these oils have hair growth-promoting properties.
  • Wash scalp with a mild shampoo and avoid brushing straight after the shower.
  • Keep the scalp free from sweat. According to some studies, excessive sweating may cause alopecia.
  • Consider going for hair replacement therapy.

As patients experience the first sign of Wellbutrin hair loss, they should report it to a healthcare provider and get some professional help. Health professionals may consider changing the dose or completely change the patient’s medicine and schedule.

When Will Hair Grow Back?

When someone is experiencing alopecia, either because of the products they have used or medications they are taking, thinking about when it will grow back may add up to the stress. So, for those who are wondering when will this alopecia stop, according to the Journal of Clinical and Diagnostic Research, the hair will grow back in 3-6 months on the removal of the trigger (telogen effluvium), in the case of Bupropion hair loss. Moreover, it might take up to 18 months for the hair to be back to normal.

To understand about alopecia and regrowth process, take a look at the information below:

  • The hair cycle includes 3 phases: anagen, catagen, and telogen;
  • Anagen is the active phase of hair growth;
  • After anagen, catagen will follow and this is a short transitional phase between anagen and telogen;
  • The last one is telogen and this is where the hair growth is at rest. When a patient takes Bupropion, the tendency is that the telogen phase will dominate over the other two phases. As said, this telogen phase related to Wellbutrin may normally last up to 6 months. However, if telogen effluvium is still persistent in 10 months, that is already referred to as a chronic case. In this case, professional help is required.

For professional advice and help on Wellbutrin hair growth, consult a trichologist. In this medical intervention, a patient will be able to have a discussion on the diagnosis and treatment options while taking Wellbutrin.

When Will Hair Grow Back.

Is Quitting Wellbutrin A Good Option To Stop Alopecia?

Stopping the use of Wellbutrin may possibly end the hair loss problem of a patient. However, do not just focus on this. There might be other factors to be blamed aside from this drug. Additionally, understand that stopping the use of this drug abruptly may cause unwanted or unpleasant Bupropion withdrawal. So, before deciding to stop any medication, especially Wellbutrin, a patient must always seek advice from a medical doctor. Only doctors can instruct the patient about dose tapering for a safe and effective drug quitting.

Can one overdose on Wellbutrin? It is quite possible. The maximum recommended limit for any dose of Wellbutrin is 450 mg, but in fact, any dose that is higher than the recommended can be enough to trigger an overdose and lead to lethal circumstances. The half-life of Wellbutrin falls within 21 (±9) hours. Patients should keep this period in their mind not to make the concentration of Wellbutrin in their system dangerous.

How Can Wellbutrin Hair Loss Be Prevented?

An individual can prevent Bupropion hair loss by decreasing the regular administration of Wellbutrin or lowering the dose. However, this can only be done if a medical doctor has given a new instruction for the patient. Also, before altering the dose of Bupropion, make sure that the drug is the real cause of alopecia. Once done, check if Telogen Effluvium stops or not. Although Wellbutrin hair loss is temporary and reversible, being vigilant on its occurrence and severity is important. Some others ways of preventing Telogen Effluvium include:

  • Scheduled visits to the physician.
  • Consider reaching out to a dermatologist for evaluation and other hair-related information.
  • Taking a healthy diet, which is loaded with proteins, vitamins, and other nutrients. According to a study of medical professionals from France, a healthy diet and foods rich in antioxidants can control alopecia.
  • Checking the amount of hair left on the brush regularly
  • Considering medication switching from Wellbutrin to its alternatives, but only under the supervision of a medical professional

While Wellbutrin hair loss is preventable, some individuals are also worried about Wellbutrin weight loss. According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, weight loss of 5lbs occurred in patients who were receiving Wellbutrin. Patients should keep in mind that this side effect is temporary and can be reversed in half a year, as maximum. If someone has to stay on this antidepressant for a longer duration and is still suffering from Wellbutrin hair loss, they must talk to their healthcare provider regarding the alternative to Wellbutrin or change in dosage.

Taking Bupropion Safely

When used according to the prescription of a doctor, this medicine is proven to be an effective medication for MDD treatment, with manageable side-effects. But without medical guidance, Wellbutrin intake can lead to several health risks, including Bupropion sexual side effects.

The drug’s mechanism of action makes changes in the level of dopamine in the brain and causes stimulant-like effects. Because of these effects, it has the potential of being abused. The drug is usually taken for an extended period, consequently psychological dependency may also develop. This may become a trigger for a patient to look for alternatives to the medication, like Wellbutrin vs Zoloft.

Abuse and dependence can lead to serious side effects and affect patients’ lives. In the case of abuse, a patient should look for an addiction treatment facility to manage this condition. Withdrawal from Wellbutrin is usually started with a tapering schedule developed by addiction treatment professionals. Detoxification procedures will also help a patient to avoid severe withdrawal symptoms.

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Published on: July 5th, 2019

Updated on: December 3rd, 2021

About Author

Nena Messina, Ph.D.

Nena Messina is a specialist in drug-related domestic violence. She devoted her life to the study of the connection between crime, mental health, and substance abuse. Apart from her work as management at addiction center, Nena regularly takes part in the educational program as a lecturer.

Medically Reviewed by

Michael Espelin APRN

8 years of nursing experience in wide variety of behavioral and addition settings that include adult inpatient and outpatient mental health services with substance use disorders, and geriatric long-term care and hospice care.  He has a particular interest in psychopharmacology, nutritional psychiatry, and alternative treatment options involving particular vitamins, dietary supplements, and administering auricular acupuncture.