Male Pattern Baldness Drug & Depression

Finasteride appears linked to depression in small study

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Robert Carlson, M.D

(RxWiki News) Male pattern baldness can affect a man's self-esteem, which in turn plays a part in a man's mental health. But a new study reveals a link between baldness treatment and depression.

The drug finasteride, often prescribed for male pattern baldness, has been linked to mild and severe depression as well as suicidal thoughts in a very small qualitative study.

"Discuss any Rx side effects with your doctor."

The study was led by Michael S. Irwig, MD, an assistant professor of medicine at the George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences in the Division of Endocrinology.

Dr. Irwig conducted standardized interviews with a total of 90 men who had experienced male pattern hair loss: one-third had taken finasteride and the rest had not. The men were also assessed with a test called the Beck Depression Inventory II to determine their levels of depression symptoms.

The 61 healthy men who had previously taken finasteride also had experienced ongoing side effects related to sexual performance for at least three months.

In addition to basic demographic information, these men were asked about their medical and psychiatric histories, their medication use, their sexual function and the amount and frequency of their alcohol intake.

None of the men had previously had any problems with sexual function before taking finasteride, they did not have any underlying medical or psychiatric conditions, and they were not taking any other oral prescription medications.

The 29 men who did not take finasteride for their hair loss also did not have any history of psychiatric conditions or taking psychiatric medications.

The results of the Beck Depression Inventory II revealed that most of the men - 75 percent - who had taken finasteride experienced at least some level of depression.

While 11 percent only had mild symptoms, 28 percent had moderate symptoms, and 36 percent had severe symptoms. Further, 44 percent of the men who had taken finasteride reported having suicidal thoughts.

Among those in the control group who had not taken finasteride, 10 percent had mild depression symptoms, and 3 percent reported suicidal thoughts, but there were no men who showed moderate or severe symptoms of depression.

The study was very small and could not establish that taking finasteride will lead a man to develop depression or thoughts of suicide, but the association even in this small study is enough for patients to be aware of the link and for further research to be conducted.

"The potential life-threatening side effects associated with finasteride should prompt clinicians to have serious discussions with their patients," said Dr. Irwig. "The preliminary findings of this study warrant further research."

The study will be published in The Journal of Clinical Psychiatry. No information was available regarding the funding of the study or possible conflicts of interest.

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Review Date: 
August 6, 2012
Last Updated:
May 20, 2013