Wellbutrin® is an antidepressant that’s been around since the 1970s. Like all drugs, it has the potential to cause side effects, one of which is hair loss. The good news is that Wellbutrin® hair loss is reversible – but for hair loss symptoms to go away, you’ll need to stop taking the medication.
What is Wellbutrin®?
Wellbutrin® is a brand-name version of a medication called bupropion. It used to be known by the name amfebutamone. According to the Mayo Clinic, bupropion is a prescription-only drug that’s used to treat and prevent depression. It’s also used to help people stop smoking.
Bupropion is also used off-label. StatPearls Publishing says that this medication is sometimes prescribed for the treatment of antidepressant-induced sexual dysfunction, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in both adults and children, depression associated with bipolar disorder, and obesity.
- Aplenzin ®
- Budeprion SR ®
- Budeprion XL ®
- Buproban ®
- Corzen ®
- Forfivo XL ®
- Quomem ®
- Wellbutrin SR ®
- Wellbutrin XL ®
- Zyban ®
- Zyntabac ®
You might also be offered a generic version of Wellbutrin®. Generic alternatives include bupropion hydrobromide and bupropion hydrochloride. If you were recently prescribed this medication, you should know that generic versions of this drug may be a tenth of the price or less compared to Wellbutrin® and other brand name versions of this medication.
How common is hair loss with Wellbutrin®?
Wellbutrin® hair loss is considered to be possible, but relatively uncommon. The Food and Drug Administration considers it to be an infrequent side effect. They define ‘infrequent’ as the type of side effect that occurs once in every 100 to 1,000 people.
How long does it take for Wellbutrin® to cause hair loss?
When Wellbutrin® causes hair loss, it’s triggering a temporary type of alopecia that affects the hair growth cycle. According to a review in the American Journal of Clinical Dermatology, this drug-induced form of hair loss is a common side effect that occurs when taking antidepressants. Drug-induced hair loss is a diffuse, generalized alopecia that can either occur very quickly (which indicates a type of hair loss called anagen effluvium) or a few months after starting the medication (which indicates a type of hair loss called telogen effluvium).
Wellbutrin® and other medications that cause drug-induced hair loss have the potential to aggravate other forms of alopecia. If you have androgenic alopecia, a progressive, hereditary form of hair loss that’s the most common cause of balding, drug-induced hair loss can aggravate your existing alopecia symptoms and accelerate your progression toward baldness.
Can bupropion help stop hair loss?
Interestingly, despite causing anagen effluvium or telogen effluvium, bupropion can also help control certain types of hair loss. A study published in the Journal of Medical Case Reports found that bupropion was able to help stop a certain type of alopecia called trichotillomania.
Unlike other forms of hair loss, which are caused by complex factors like genetics, hormones, immune system issues, nutrient absorption problems, or medications, trichotillomania is actually self-induced. This type of hair loss occurs when a person compulsively pulls out their own hair. Antidepressants are often used to treat trichotillomania. But unfortunately, the type of antidepressants that work for most people (called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) aren’t able to help everyone. In these cases, bupropion has been shown to work as an alternative treatment.
How to stop Wellbutrin® hair loss
It’s easy to stop hair loss caused by Wellbutrin®. The review in the American Journal of Clinical Dermatology says that all you need to do is stop taking the medication. Your hair should start growing back a few months after you stop taking the drug.
But Wellbutrin® tends to be prescribed by your doctor for a good reason, like to treat seasonal affective disorder or major depressive disorder. If you want to stop taking this medication, you should first find a suitable alternative you can switch to.
However, keep in mind that various other antidepressants can also cause drug-induced alopecia. Besides bupropion, antidepressants that cause this side effect include:
- All SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors)
While this long list of antidepressants that cause hair loss may seem disheartening, it seems that these medications are actually less likely to cause alopecia than bupropion. In fact, according to a study in the International Clinical Psychopharmacology, bupropion seems more likely to cause hair loss symptoms than many other common antidepressants.
The review in the American Journal of Clinical Dermatology says that fluoxetine and paroxetine (both SSRIs) have the lowest risk of causing hair loss symptoms when compared to bupropion. Fluvoxamine, which is also an SSRI, has the highest likelihood of causing alopecia symptoms compared to bupropion.
Does Wellbutrin® cause other side effects?
Wellbutrin® is likely to cause a range of side effects – and many of them are much more likely to occur than hair loss. Common Wellbutrin® side effects (defined as those that occur in at least one in every hundred people) include:
- Cardiovascular edema
- Non-specific rashes
- Nighttime urination
- Lack of coordination
- Uncontrolled, involuntary movements
- Muscle spasms, twitching, or jerking
- Mania and/or hypomania
- Increased libido
- Decreased sexual function
- Mouth sores or inflammation
- Flu-like symptoms
Does bupropion cause hair loss?
It’s possible for bupropion, also known as Wellbutrin®, to cause hair loss. It may also exacerbate existing hair loss symptoms, like those due to androgenic alopecia. Wellbutrin® hair loss is reversible – you just need to stop taking the medication. However, since this medication is usually used as an antidepressant, you’ll want to speak to your doctor about alternative treatment options before you stop taking this drug.
Unfortunately, there is a fairly long list of antidepressants that cause hair loss. Switching to a similar medication that doesn’t have the potential to cause alopecia may not be the easiest solution, but your doctor can work with you to find a suitable alternative.
If you find that your hair loss symptoms continue even after you stop taking Wellbutrin®, you may actually be experiencing the symptoms of pattern hair loss. In order to stop the progression of this condition, you’ll need to use a laser hair therapy device or a topical hair loss treatment like minoxidil.