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Does Gabapentin Cause Hair Loss?

Knox Beasley, MD

Reviewed by Knox Beasley, MD

Written by Geoffrey C. Whittaker

Published 05/14/2021

Updated 04/26/2024

Can gabapentin cause hair loss? And if so, why does gabapentin cause hair loss?

If you find yourself Googling “gabapentin side effects hair loss” or “gabapentin hair loss reversible,” you’re not alone. Whether you’re experiencing hair loss that might be due to gabapentin or just investigating rumors before taking this medication, it can be hard to get clear answers.

While gabapentin is a well-known, effective medication for various neurological issues, this antiepileptic drug doesn’t come without side effects — and yes, reports of hair loss are among them.

Your likelihood of experiencing serious or permanent drug-induced hair loss from using gabapentin brand names Neurontin®, Horizant®, or Gralise® is low, but it’s not impossible. Here’s what experts know right now.

Gabapentin is an oral prescription anticonvulsant and antiepileptic (drugs used to treat epilepsy and seizures) that affects the nervous system.

This anti-seizure medication can also be prescribed off-label for ailments it’s not FDA-approved for. This includes everything from restless leg syndrome to postherpetic neuralgia (pain and burning skin from shingles).

Its most well-known uses, however, are in managing nerve pain from conditions like fibromyalgia and treating seizures by “decreasing abnormal excitement in the brain.”

Gabapentin is often used to treat a condition called diabetic neuropathy — pain or discomfort experienced by people with diabetes-based nerve damage.

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There’s (disclaimer: infrequent but eyebrow-raising) evidence suggesting gabapentin can cause hair loss. The FDA (U.S. Food and Drug Administration) referred to it as a “hair disorder” in labeling records from 2010, calling it an “infrequent” side effect.

That vague reference could imply an association between drug-induced hair loss and gabapentin.

We have a few pieces of anecdotal evidence to support the possibility. 

According to a 2011 article published in the Journal of Research in Medical Sciences, hair loss could be a “lasting effect” of gabapentin treatment, even though the manufacturer doesn’t list it as a side effect. For context, this research was written a full 17 years after the drug was first released.

What’s more, a 2009 letter in the Journal of Pain and Symptom Management detailed a patient’s experience taking gabapentin for a neurologically induced burning sensation. After a week, she noticed significant hair loss — patchy alopecia — which was more of a problem, according to the patient, than the burning sensation. 

In the letter, the researchers said they thought they were witnessing one of the first cases of alopecia as a side effect of gabapentin.

There’s some good news, though. The researchers also noted that after a few months, the patient’s hair loss stopped, and her hair started growing back.

If experts are fairly convinced that a relationship between hair growth and gabapentin exists, they’re definitely farther from any consensus on why it does so.

So, how exactly does a medication for the treatment of neuropathic pain and epilepsy cause drug-induced hair loss? That’s the unanswered question.

Hair loss typically happens when the hair’s normal three-phase growth cycle is interrupted.

The three phases of the cycle are: 

  • The anagen phase, when the hair is growing

  • The catagen phase, when the hair is in limbo (not growing or shedding)

  • The telogen phase, when the follicle is shed and rests before things return to the anagen phase again

About 90 percent of your hair should be in the anagen phase at any given time, and nine percent will be in the telogen phase.

Hair loss is simply the condition of hairs in the telogen phase never returning to the anagen phase, whether due to trauma to the scalp or hormonal imbalances.

Medications can also make hair stop repeating its growth cycle — but in this case, exactly why the interruption happens is unclear.

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Should hair loss be considered a side effect of gabapentin? It’s difficult to say.

Since the drug isn’t widely consumed, the relatively low number of reported cases of hair loss could be due to the relatively low number of people using this antiepileptic medication.

The confirmed potential side effects don’t offer much guidance for speculation, either.

Side effects of gabapentin in men include: 

  • Memory loss

  • Anxiety

  • Headaches

  • Dizziness

  • Drowsiness

  • Tiredness

  • Heartburn

  • Increased appetite

  • Weight gain

  • Unwanted eye movements

  • Unsteadiness, double or blurred vision

  • Swelling of the extremities

  • Back or joint pain

  • Fever

Consult your healthcare provider if you see any of these symptoms. And seek immediate help if you experience rash, itching, hoarseness, swelling of the face, throat, tongue, lips or eyes, or difficulty breathing.

The good news is that many forms of hair loss can be stopped. And often, hair loss as a side effect of medication can be reversed by stopping the medication.

Telogen effluvium is the type of hair loss that happens because of bodily stresses, like medication, illness, surgery and other traumas. It typically goes away on its own once the source of stress is removed.

Hair regrowth may come naturally as the adverse effects of gabapentin wear off — and the more common side effects start to wane.

But in some cases, hair shedding could be permanent.

With male pattern baldness, for instance, there comes a point when the damage is irreversible. Likewise, certain forms of alopecia can cause scarring that permanently kills hair follicles.

But if you act fast enough, there might be hope.

Seek medical advice from a dermatologist, trichologist (scalp and hair specialist) or another healthcare provider to figure out what type of hair loss you’re dealing with — whether it’s drug-induced alopecia from gabapentin use or something else.

If your hair loss can be reversed, it might speed up the process to use hair loss medication or supplements (like our biotin gummies) to encourage healthy hair growth.

Several products can help you fight baldness and regrow your hair, according to the American Academy of Dermatology Association. 

The most popular FDA-approved options are minoxidil and finasteride. If you’re losing hair, a healthcare professional will most likely have you start with one of these.

Finasteride

Finasteride is an oral medication that works somewhat preventatively. It blocks a hormone called DHT (short for dihydrotestosterone) that’s responsible for androgenic alopecia (the clinical term for male pattern hair loss). 

Research shows finasteride can reduce DHT by as much as 70 percent when taken daily. And with continued use, the results tend to be promising.

Minoxidil

On the other hand, topical minoxidil (generic for Rogaine®) is thought to make hair follicles reenter the anagen phase so they start producing hair again.

According to one study, minoxidil increased hair thickness after 48 weeks of use and showed the potential to boost hair count by as much as 18 percent.

This over-the-counter (OTC) hair loss medication is available as minoxidil liquid solution or minoxidil foam. You can also get a dual-action finasteride & minoxidil topical spray.

Hair loss treatments, delivered

Does gabapentin cause hair loss? It might in very rare cases, but the current research is lacking.

If you’re on gabapentin or another antiepileptic medication, your first priority should always be your health and safety.

Here’s what to keep in mind about gabapentin and hair loss:

  • It’s crucial to never abruptly stop a drug unless a healthcare professional instructs you to. 

  • A healthcare professional should be your next point of contact, by the way, if you’re concerned about side effects. They can help you assess the problem, identify other potential causes of sudden hair loss and figure out the right next move.

  • Your provider might also recommend a prescription or OTC hair loss medication, like finasteride or minoxidil.

If you want to know more about this medication, check out our blog on gabapentin and erectile dysfunction.

You can also explore the range of available hair loss treatments from Hims.

8 Sources

  1. Hair loss: Diagnosis and treatment. (n.d.). Retrieved March 13, 2021, from https://www.aad.org/public/diseases/hair-loss/treatment/diagnosis-treat.
  2. Rafi, A. W., & Katz, R. M. (2011). Pilot Study of 15 Patients Receiving a New Treatment Regimen for Androgenic Alopecia: The Effects of Atopy on AGA. ISRN dermatology, 2011, 241953. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3262531/.
  3. Suchonwanit, P., Thammarucha, S., & Leerunyakul, K. (2019). Minoxidil and its use in hair disorders: a review. Drug design, development and therapy, 13, 2777–2786. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6691938/.
  4. Burg, D., Yamamoto, M., Namekata, M., Haklani, J., Koike, K., & Halasz, M. (2017). Promotion of anagen, increased hair density and reduction of hair fall in a clinical setting following identification of FGF5-inhibiting compounds via a novel 2-stage process. Clinical, cosmetic and investigational dermatology, 10, 71–85. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5338843/.
  5. H. Evren Eker, Oya Yalcin Cok, Anis Aribogan. Alopecia Associated with Gabapentin in the Treatment of Neuropathic Pain. Journal of Pain and Symptom Management. Volume 37, Issue 3, 2009, pages e5-e6. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0885392408006507.
  6. Honarmand, A., Safavi, M., & Zare, M. (2011). Gabapentin: An update of its pharmacological properties and therapeutic use in epilepsy. Journal of research in medical sciences : the official journal of Isfahan University of Medical Sciences, 16(8), 1062–1069. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3263084/.
  7. Gabapentin: Medlineplus drug information. (n.d.). Retrieved April 26, 2021, from https://medlineplus.gov/druginfo/meds/a694007.html.
  8. Neurotonin (Gabapentin) capsule label. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.accessdata.fda.gov/drugsatfda_docs/label/2010/020235s043lbl.pdf.
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Hims & Hers has strict sourcing guidelines to ensure our content is accurate and current. We rely on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and medical associations. We strive to use primary sources and refrain from using tertiary references. See a mistake? Let us know at [email protected]!

This article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. The information contained herein is not a substitute for and should never be relied upon for professional medical advice. Always talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of any treatment. Learn more about our editorial standards here.

Knox Beasley, MD

Dr. Knox Beasley is a board certified dermatologist specializing in hair loss. He completed his undergraduate studies at the United States Military Academy at West Point, NY, and subsequently attended medical school at Tulane University School of Medicine in New Orleans, LA. 

Dr. Beasley first began doing telemedicine during his dermatology residency in 2013 with the military, helping to diagnose dermatologic conditions in soldiers all over the world. 

Dr. Beasley is board certified by the American Board of Dermatology, and is a Fellow of the American Academy of Dermatology.

Originally from Nashville, TN, Dr. Beasley currently lives in North Carolina and enjoys spending time outdoors (with sunscreen of course) with his wife and two children in his spare time. 

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