Categories: Medications and research
As anti-craving medications become more widely accepted in treating alcohol dependence, dealing with potential side effects plays an increasingly important role. It’s one of the reasons we urge everyone to work closely with a qualified health care provider.
One of the most popular drugs many drinkers have sought over the past couple of years to help curb craving is Topamax and it appears to do a pretty good job. But like any powerful medication, it has a down side: a lengthy list of potential side effects. It includes a lowered bicarbonate level in the blood which can lead to hyperventilation, irregular heartbeat and kidney stones; a rare form of glaucoma; cognitive slowing; sleepiness; weight loss; tingling in the extremities; flu-like symptoms; and other possible problems. The list may sound terrifying, but anyone who understands the the horror of addiction realizes it may pale in comparison to the self loathing of a mother whose young daughter admits to pouring her vodka down the drain in a futile attempt to save her.
Patients and members on our message board often complain about the cognitive slowing associated with Topamax and I consider it to be the most common and problematic of all side effects. But another one reported more ‘on the board’ than in the literature is this: hair loss or thinning.
In fact, I experienced some hair thinning myself and found it a little disturbing (although to be honest, I was somewhat stressed at the time, so wasn’t sure if it was caused by the meds.) Brenda, whose journals were included in my book, also reported changes to her hair, but only to texture. Neither one of us found ourselves devastated by significant hair loss like some women. And ours eventually passed.
But last week, I was interested to read that the FDA had approved a product to promote hair growth and I’m wondering if it may help those in our program who suffer with this problem. The device is purported to work by combining a laser with a comb and emit low-level pulses to stimulate hair growth. In a 26-week clinical trial, some 93% of the participants using this Hairmax Lasercomb saw an increase in hair density, with an average increase of 19 hairs per centimeter.
Recommend usage is 10-15 minutes three times a week and it is currently only approved to “promote hair growth in males with androgenetic alopecia”, although a number of testimonials on the company’s website include those of women who say they have enjoyed success with the product.
One would certainly hope so. Customers pay $545 for this wondercomb!
But for those who are devastated by hair loss, it may be worth every penny. I was interested to read feedback, both good and bad, on the company’s message board and they seem to be fairly liberal about allowing customers to post their experiences about the device. (I note that it is a moderated forum, which means administrators must approve each post. I know this because one of our members told me she recently registered there and was awaiting approval for her question regarding hair loss due to Topamax.)
Time will tell as to whether or not the Hairmax is effective and if people are willing to pay such a hefty price to restore their hair.
If so, it may be helpful to some who are ready to be done battling yet another indignity of the addiction.