Connection Between Hair Loss and Addiction

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Over 80 million American citizens have to contend with hair loss. In fact, hair loss is so common that almost 2/3 of men will experience it by the time they reach the age of 35. It’s not just the men, either. Almost 40% of people who lose their hair are women. There are many factors that might contribute to hair loss, and addiction is one of them. Luckily, it is quite possible to remove the connection between hair loss and addiction by taking advantage of addiction solutions Florida has on offer. In this article, we will be covering the science of hair loss, the connection between substance abuse and hair loss, as well as the connection between compulsive behaviors and hair loss. We will also provide you with several treatment options for addiction and hair loss.

The Science of Hair Loss

Since our hair is one of our defining characteristics, it is no wonder that hair loss has been researched for decades now. To understand what causes hair loss, we first need to understand how our hair grows. We are all born with hair follicles, about 5 million of them, that interact with the rest of our body on a continuous basis. Our body sends biological signals to these follicles, telling them when and how to cycle.

person lying down, surrounded by flowers
Our hair follicles are responsible for hair growth & loss

The actual hair grows from the root in the follicle. These roots are comprised of live protein cells which get their nourishment from small blood vessels in our scalps. These cells, in turn, create the cells that grow hair. The growing hair also has an outer sheath which serves to protect it from outside influences.

A disruption to any part of this process might lead to hair loss. As you might imagine, there are quite a few things that may cause hair loss, many of which are outside our control.

What causes hair loss?

You can lose your hair due to numerous reasons, including:

  • Genetics
  • Male hormones
  • Aging
  • Autoimmunity imbalances (e.g. alopecia areata)
  • All major stressors (death of a loved one, chronic/prolonged illness, job loss, etc.)
  • Certain medications such as antidepressants, chemotherapy drugs, and beta-blockers
  • Dietary deficiencies
  • Illnesses

Furthermore, having a very tight hairstyle may also strain your hair follicles, potentially leading to hair loss. By looking at the abovementioned causes, we can clearly see the connection between hair loss and addiction, as many of the causes can be directly related to a substance use disorder. Being addicted to a substance such as Adderall, for example, may potentially cause you to shed much more hair than normal. If this happens, it is extremely important to undergo Adderall addiction rehab at a treatment center to remove the underlying cause. Furthermore, addiction can potentially interfere with hair growth cycles and contribute to hair loss even more.

person being stressed about the connection between hair loss and addiction
Stress is a huge contributing factor to hair loss.

Hair growth cycles

As you already know, our hair grows rather fast. What you may not know is that our hair growth cycles are continuous and occur during the life of a hair follicle. The complete hair growth cycle lasts over two to eight years and is comprised of three stages. The three stages of hair growth are:

  • Growth (Anagen) stage
  • Dormant (Catagen) stage
  • Rest (Telogen) stage

Understanding the three stages of hair growth allows us to better understand how hair loss actually works.

Anagen stage

In the anagen stage, which may last anywhere between 2 and 8 years, our hair grows at a rate of 1 centimeter per month. During this time, our cells are creating new scalp hair from our hair follicles, while the old hair is being pushed out of the scalp. According to various research, people who experience trouble growing their hair beyond a certain length actually experience a shorter active growth phase. On the other hand, people who are able to grow long hair rather easily usually have a longer active growth phase.

Catagen stage

The catagen stage lasts around two to three weeks and represents the time when our hair is dormant. During this stage, the hair detaches from the blood supply. In most cases, we always have around 3% of all our hair in the catagen stage.

Telogen stage

The last stage is where our hair follicles rest. It is also the stage where the follicle sheds the hair and prepares to grow a new one. This stage lasts for around 100 days and follicles require up to four months to start growing new hair. At any given time, around 6-9% of all hairs are going to be in the telogen stage.

It is also important to understand that both hair growth and hair shedding are quite random. No two people are exactly the same. An average, healthy, person might shed anywhere from 50-100 hairs per day but they might also shed more or less than that.

However, when your health deteriorates, your hair loss becomes more pronounced as a result. Since addiction inevitably brings about negative changes in health, it influences hair loss as well.

Substance Abuse and Hair Loss

Substance abuse affects hair loss in a very negative way. First of all, being addicted to a substance will lower your overall health. As far as the connection between hair loss and addiction goes, this is the most important factor. Furthermore, having unkempt, unhealthy, hair is one of the most common warning signs that someone might be struggling with addiction. Most importantly, however, addiction is usually followed by co-occurring mental health issues such as anxiety. Anxious people tend to develop bad habits that can damage their hair. By pulling the hair out by force, anxious people tend to damage and traumatize their hair follicles, leading to impaired hair growth cycles.

a mentally ill person
Mental health issues may lead to hair loss.

Some of the drugs that are known to induce nervous, hair-pulling behavior include:

  • Crack cocaine
  • Methamphetamine
  • Adderall
  • Cocaine

Crack cocaine is the worst of the lot, by far. If you have an addiction to crack cocaine and start noticing hair loss, the best thing you can do is check into crack cocaine rehab immediately. If you allow your bad habits to run rampant, not only will your hair suffer but your overall health will significantly deteriorate as well.

Aside from being able to induce bad behaviors and create bad habits, drugs, and alcohol may influence the person to neglect their physical appearance. Needless to say, abstaining from proper hygiene routines can have significant adverse effects on your hair.

Impact of drugs and alcohol on the body

Excessive alcohol and drug use take a heavy toll on the body. Both drugs and alcohol are connected to hair loss, as they create nutritional imbalances, hormonal changes, and stress. Heavy alcohol consumption can lead to severe malnutrition, as well as change your body’s way of absorbing nutrients. The way that this happens is due to the fact that you are getting your calories from alcohol but those are “empty” calories, they have no nutritional value whatsoever. This leads to feeling full and not wanting to eat on a regular basis. Many alcoholics tend to replace their meals with drinks instead, potentially leading to a very dangerous situation.

two alcoholic beverages
Alcohol may be filling but it is not at all nutritious.

Furthermore, alcohol will dehydrate you and make your hair follicles become brittle and dry. This makes them more likely to fall out. Alcohol may also create blood sugar spikes which have been linked to pattern baldness. Lastly, addiction to alcohol will usually disrupt your sleep cycles, leading to increased stress. Since stress is one of the primary causes of hair loss, it is easy to see the connection between hair loss and addiction.

Being addicted to certain drugs can also increase your chance of hair loss. Not every drug has the same effect, of course, but most drugs will at least damage your health if you abuse them.

How do drugs cause hair loss?

The way in which drugs cause hair loss is by interfering with your hair growth cycles. Basically, drugs can prematurely “push” your hair follicles into another stage, making them fall out too early. Drugs can also prevent hair growth from dividing normally. There are many drugs that can contribute to hair loss, including:

  • Antidepressants
  • Steroids
  • Immunosuppressants
  • Epilepsy drugs
  • Thyroid medications
  • Antibiotics
  • Cholesterol-lowering drugs
  • Mood stabilizers
  • Birth control pills
  • Beta-blockers

Of course, chemotherapy drugs almost always lead to hair loss, as well. Luckily, stopping the use of the drug will almost always stop hair loss as well. This is why treating addiction is extremely important. If you are addicted to prescription antidepressants, for example, the best thing to do is seek Florida prescription drugs addiction treatment. During the course of treatment, you may also identify other sources of hair loss and be able to work on correcting them as well.

various drugs, showcasing the connection between hair loss and addiction
There are many drugs that can contribute to hair loss.

Another way in which addiction can influence hair loss is through the creation of compulsive behaviors. Most of the time, a person who is addicted to a substance will not even realize that they have a compulsive disorder.

Compulsive Behaviors and Hair Loss

Compulsive behaviors are the most common connection between hair loss and addiction. There are two notable disorders that may lead to hair loss: Trichotillomania and Dermatillomania. Trichotillomania, also known as a hair-pulling disorder, is especially harmful. As mentioned previously, forceful hair pulling will damage your hair follicles, making them unable to do their job properly.

Dermatillomania will have you compulsively scratch your skin, potentially causing injuries and even scarring. People who develop dermatillomania tend to experience strong anxiety that is only relieved when they pick at something. Some people do not even realize that they are doing this. Picking at your scalp will inevitably lead to hair loss over time.

While you may develop each disorder due to family history, age, or stress, it is much more likely that you develop them by being addicted to a substance. If you notice the warning signs of either trichotillomania or dermatillomania and you also think you may have an addiction problem, seek treatment immediately.

Seeking Help and Treatment

If you are suffering from drug-induced hair loss, it is very important to review any medications you are taking as the first thing you do. Talk them over with your doctor and your pharmacist. If you don’t know what is causing your hair loss, you will need to do a blood test, pull test, scalp biopsy, and light microscopy. These tests will allow you to figure out the best course of treatment.

If you are also suffering from addiction, the best thing to do is to seek addiction treatment before treating hair loss. There are numerous options that can help you regain control over your life, such as outpatient and inpatient rehab Florida programs. Your choice of program will depend on how severe your addiction might be.

Throughout these programs, you will have access to various options that can help you overcome your addiction, including:

  • Counseling
  • Medications
  • Lifestyle Coaching
two people in a counseling session, exploring the connection between hair loss and addiction
Counseling can help you minimize the effects that addiction might have on hair loss.

Furthermore, if you choose inpatient treatment, you will have access to 24/7 professional medical care and monitoring. Other options are less intensive but may allow you to continue living your life as normal, with a few weekly visits to the treatment facility.

There is one issue with seeking professional treatment, however. Even though we live in an age of freely available information, there is still quite a bit of stigma concerning addiction.

Overcoming the stigma surrounding addiction and hair loss

If your hair loss is related to addiction, the best thing to do is seek treatment. However, doing so might open you up to addiction stigma (negative attitudes from other people). Many people still wrongly believe that addiction is an expression of personal weakness and that only “bad” people succumb to it. This is why almost 9 out of 10 people who are suffering from any mental health issues have experienced this stigma at some point. The issue with stigma is that it prevents many people from identifying themselves as being ill and seeking proper treatment.

To overcome stigma, you will want to talk openly about addiction whenever possible, try to be compassionate, and learn more about addiction itself. By doing so, you will be in the best position to influence other people and help them realize that their way of thinking is wrong. Once the word finally gets out to the common person that addiction is a disease and not a character flaw, things will change.

The connection between hair loss and addiction is clearly evident. Luckily, treating the addiction will usually remove the associated hair loss. Therefore, it is always in your best interest to seek addiction treatment as soon as possible, before it has the chance to create long-lasting effects.

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