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N- Acetylcysteine Reduces Hair-Pulling Symptoms

Armen Hareyan's picture
Hair Pulling

A recent study of chronic hair pullers, at University of Minnesota Medical School, revealed that 56% of the patients who were given the supplement N- Acetylcysteine had significant reduction in their hair-pulling symptoms after nine weeks of use as compared to 16% in a placebo group.

Trichotillomania is an obsessive-compulsive hair pulling disorder characterized by pulling hair out of different areas of the body. Many of those suffering with the disorder don’t realize they are pulling their hair out until areas of the face, body or scalp become denuded by the habit. The pain and discomfort do not seem to be a deterrent.

Patients suffering with this disorder are, in general, resistant to psychiatric medications. Unless other associated symptoms like anxiety and panic attacks respond to specific treatment modalities, there is no clear cut conventional medical treatment available.

In spite of this, many of the patients are placed on psychotropic drugs with poor and often undesirable results with significant side-effects.

Focusing on finding successful, safe methods to help cure behaviors that are categorized as psychological and behavioral problems is a step in the right direction, rather than placing those individuals on powerful prescription drugs, such as antidepressants and even antipsychotics.

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Historically, doctors rely on anti depressants, psychotropics and sedatives to calm and block compulsive behaviors at their source, in the brain. However, these medications often produce further psychological, behavioral and medical problems in the individuals which lead many physicians to prescribe additional medications to cover the newest set of problems. This course of action no longer seems appropriate or necessary.

N-Acetylcysteine, as the most recent study has shown, inhibits the same part of the brain where compulsive, harmful behaviors occur in a natural, non habit-forming method.

While individuals suffering from Trichotillomania are seeking professional talk therapy help, they may have found another safe option.

N-Acetylcysteine is a derivative of the amino acid cysteine. It is a supplement you can get at the health food store, labeled as NAC. It is often used in the medical field to diminish the kidney toxicity caused by the drug paracetamol and for the treatment of polycystic ovaries, improvement of fertility, immune boosting and also in behavioral issues.

N-Acetyl cysteine is believed to counteract the glutamate hyperactivity associated with obsessive compulsive disorders.

Written by Dr. Erika Schwartz, Medical Director of Cinergy Health (www.cinergyhealth.com)