Millions of Americans have found themselves swept away in the current of a culture where xanax, ativan and other extremely addictive benzodiazepines are being prescribed by the medical community for everything from backaches to test anxiety. But what they don’t know, is that benzodiazepines are among the most addictive substances on Earth. After years of debilitating side effects, and still suffering from the symptoms they originally started out with, many are trying to conquer those addictions but they don’t have the resources.
Today we will be talking about solutions for one scary and embarrassing side effect: Hair loss.
How Does Hair Grow?
Your hair forms from proteins located in the follicle or root of the skin. Blood vessels feed the skin and enables the cells to divide and your hair to push up through the skin and grow. Nearby oil glands lubricate the hair to keep it healthy and strong. Interestingly, we are all born with a set point of about 5 million hair follicles and do not develop any more throughout our lives.
What Causes Hair Loss?
Hair follicles go through periods of resting and growing at different intervals and some of these follicles stop growing hair as a person ages. During the resting phase, the follicle releases the strand of hair. Once it resumes the growing phase, it will grow a new hair.
The average person loses between 50 to 100 hairs every day. Many things can cause you to lose more hair, here is a list from the American Academy of Dermatology Association.
Cause of hair loss:
- Medications: Benzodiazepines, antidepressants, cancer treatments and other medications.
- Genetic/ inherited hair loss: The gene associated with hereditary hair loss comes from your grandfather on your mother’s side.
- Alopecia areata: This is caused by your immune system attacking the hair follicles.
- Thyroid disease
- Stress: Stress changes your hormones and impacts the hair growth process.
- Androgen dominance: High amounts of male sex hormones, like testosterone, are associated with hair loss. This is common in men, and in women who have PCOS.
- Hair care products: Hair dyes, perms, treatments to relax your hair, and other hair care products can cause hair loss.
- Pulling your hair back tightly in a style that pulls at the hair follicle.
- Infections of the scalp
- Psoriasis on the scalp
- Sexually transmitted diseases like syphilis
- Scarring alopecia: This is caused by a condition where there is inflammation that damages the hair follicles.
- Insufficient biotin, iron and zinc
- Insufficient protein in the diet
- Friction or rubbing against the hair follicle
Let’s talk about how to prevent benzodiazepine withdrawal hair loss and how to counteract the hair loss side effects of your benzo. We have some pretty fabulous tips to help you keep your hair and even possibly grow your hair back.
The Two Main Steps You Need to Take To Prevent Benzodiazepine Withdrawal Hair Loss
In this section I am going to share with you the two main steps you need to take in order to address benzodiazepine withdrawal hair loss and prevent benzodiazepine induced hair loss. If you love the information in this article please share because there are so many people out there that need to hear this information.
Okay! Let’s jump in:
Step 1: The first step is to know which benzodiazepines are the most common culprits of benzo caused hair loss.
Here is the short list on the benzo class of drugs:
High probability of hair loss/ alopecia (Lexi-Comp, 2016) (McEvoy GK, 2016)
- Lorazepam (short half-life, 12 hours)
- Clonazepam (long half-life, 1-3 days)
Other benzodiazepines associated with hair loss/ alopecia
- Alprazolam (short half-life, 11.2 hours)
- Clorazepate (short half-life, 3-8 hours)
- Midazolam (short half-life, 3-8 hours)
- Triazolam (short half-life, 3-8 hours)
- Oxazepam (intermediate half-life, 8.2 hrs)
- Diazepam (long half-life, 1-3 days)
- Chlordiazepoxide (long-acting benzo, 1-3 days)
- Flurazepam (long half-life, 1-3 days)
- Quazepam (long half-life, 1-3 days)
- Chlordiazepoxide (long half-life, 30 hours)
- Clorazepate (long half-life, 2-4 days)
As you can see, if you are taking lorazepam or clonazepam you are at a higher risk of hair loss, and these two medications are also more difficult to taper off of than some of the others. Diazepam has a lower incidence of hair loss and is my go-to in terms of a safer and easier tapering process.
Step 2: Support GABA
Benzos can cause hair loss, and tapering down on your medication will help you get on the right track to reducing unwanted side effects. However, as you taper down on your benzo, because the body develops physical dependence to these drugs, you may begin to experience symptoms of low GABA. Benzodiazepine withdrawal symptoms may include panic attacks, insomnia, high blood pressure, anxiety, seizures and other symptoms related to a nervous system dysregulation. Remember, never go cold turkey, take your time. Slow and steady wins the race.
You can also support GABA with safe and powerful natural solutions:
- First: enhance the benzodiazepine’s efficacy so that lower benzo doses are required.
- Second: Reduce withdrawal effects.
Here Are My Top-3-Tips to Support GABA Production:
- Passionflower (Passiflora Incarnata): Passionflower extracts bind to GABA receptors and is widely recognized by the medical community for its use in aiding medication detoxification due to its wide range of effects on the nervous system. Passionflower is useful in the following symptom states: Irritation of brain and nervous system, sleeplessness from overwork, worry, or from anxiety, neuralgic pains, exhaustion, muscle spasms, tremors, twitching, convulsive movements; nervous headache, intense anxiety, depression, oppressed breathing; and cardiac palpitation from excitement or shock. As you can see, these symptoms are similar to those seen in benzodiazepine withdrawal. (Brinker, 2011) (Felter, 1898)
- Happy Sleepy Powder (HSP): Happy Sleepy Powder is a combination of ingredients that aid in the body’s production of its own GABA. It contains inositol, glycine, taurine, theanine, and phosphatidylserine. I typically recommend starting with each ingredient separately so that you know how you feel with each, and slowly work your way up in dosage. As such, when you order HSP from www.DrNicoleCain.com you will receive the ingredients as separates with detailed instructions for how to use them.
- Avena Sativa: Avena is my mainstay in healing the brain post drug or toxicity exposure. Avena Sativa is categorized as a chief trophorestorative. A trophorestorative is a compound that heals nervous system tissue. Avena is often used to aid people giving up substances and there are many articles reporting its efficacy in this role. Avena Sativa is healing, relaxing, it reduces depression and anxiety, it improves concentration and it is safe to use over a long period of time. (Anand, 1971) (Gabrynowicz, 1974)
Step 3: Support your hair follicles and hair health
We want to address the cause of your hair loss as well as improve the health of your hair and promote growth.
Here Are My Top-3-Tips for healing Your Hair Follicles and Promoting Hair Health and Growth
- Balance your hormones: Hormonal changes that either caused the symptoms that lead to you being prescribed a benzo, or hormonal issues that occurred with benzo use, can lead to hair loss– specifically elevated androgens which are male sex-hormones like DHEA and testosterone. High cortisol is also associated with hair loss, as is low thyroid.
- Take Centella asiatica (Hydrocotyle asiatica) (Gotu Kola): Gotu Kola improves vessel integrity and helps to reduce the symptoms of connective tissue disease. Thus, Gotu Kola stimulates hair and nail growth and it increases vascularization and optimizes the balance of connective tissue building. Another thing worth mentioning is that Gotu Kola is AMAZING for the nervous system. It relieves brain fog, improves concentration, improves memory, decreases anxiety, lifts your mood, prevents brain degeneration and is overall considered anti-aging. (Lininger, 2001) (Pizzorno, 1999)
- Take a physician-grade multivitamin: Inflammation, nutrient deficiency and mineral deficiency all contribute to hair, skin, and nail health. If you are losing your hair, start by ensuring your body has all the nutrients it needs for you to grow those luscious-locks of hair.
The top most important nutrients for hair growth:
- Vitamins A, C, B1, B2, B3, B6, and Folate
- Minerals zinc, copper, manganese, calcium magnesium, sodium and phosphorus
- Collagen: Undenatured collagen type II (bone broth is a great source of collagen)
- Silica containing botanicals, for example, Horsetail
- Para-aminobenzoic acid (PABA)
- Inositol (this is in our Happy Sleepy Powder)
In this article we discussed how benzos can cause hair loss, and that benzo withdrawal can cause hair loss. I gave you some of my exclusive tips on preventing hair loss while you’re tapering off of your benzodiazepines. Believe it or not, this is just the beginning. If you loved the information in this article, check out our course on Medication Tapering. It is jam packed full of information on how to taper off benzos, how to support GABA, and so much more.
You can get off of your benzodiazepines. Find a doctor that you trust and who is an expert in helping people safely and slowly taper down on these medications. Give yourself time to heal, and be patient with your taper. The slower the taper, often the better the taper. There are thousands of integrative treatments for helping reduce anxiety naturally, improve sleep naturally, and help you taper off of meds under your doctor’s supervision. If you’d like to learn more, check out this article about the top 6 nutrients you need to help you get off of your benzodiazapine.
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Lexi-Comp I, ed Drug Information Handbook. 21st ed. Hudson, OH: Lexi-Comp; 2016.
McEvoy GK, Snow EK, Kester L, Litvak K, Miller J, Welsh OH, eds. AHFS2016 Drug Information.Bethesda, MD: American Society of Health-System Pharmacists; 2016.
Archer, M., Frydrych, V., & Lafleur, J. Benzodiazepines in the Treatment of Anxiety Disorder. University of Utah College of Pharmacy. Copyright © 2016 by University of Utah College of Pharmacy. Retrieved from https://medicaid.utah.gov/pharmacy/ptcommittee/files/Criteria%20Review%20Documents/2016/2016.11%20Benzodiazepines%20in%20Anxiety%20Drug%20Class%20Review.pdf on November 2019.
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Felter, H. W., Lloyd, J.U. King’s American Dispensatory, 18th ed.. Eclectic Medical Publications. Sandy, OR. 1898
Anand CL, Effect of Avena sative on Cigarette Smoking. Nature, 233: 496, 1971.
Gabrynowicz JW. Treatment of Nicotine Addication with Avena sativa. Med J Australia, 8/24/74, p. 306-7
Lininger et al. Healthnotes: Clinical Essentials, Herb Monographs. Prima Publishing, Rocklin, CA, 2001.
Pizzorno JE Jr, Murray M. The Textbook of Natural Medicine, 2nd ed. Churchill Livingstone, NY, NY, 1999:653.