A study by a George Washington University researcher has revealed that finasteride, a common drug used for hair loss, is a associated with a high prevalence of depressive symptoms and suicidal thoughts in men. Finasteride is the chemical name for Propecia which is used to treat male pattern baldness. The study showed that men who suffered persistent sexual side affects as a result of taking this drug were at a high risk of depression.
Michael S. Irwig, M.D., an assistant professor of medicine in the Division of Endocrinology at the George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences led the study interview 61 men who were former users of finasteride with persistent sexual side effects for more than three months. All of these men were otherwise healthy and had no baseline sexual dysfunction, medical conditions, psychiatric conditions or use of oral prescription medications. As a control group, Dr. Irwig interview 29 men with male pattern baldness, but were not former users of finasteride. They also had no previous history with psychiatric conditions or psychiatric drugs . Both groups took the Beck Depression Inventory II (BDI-II), which is used to measure depression in adults.
Based on the BDI-II scores, the finasteride users group showed significantly more depressive symptoms than the control group. 11% had mild symptoms,28% had moderate symptoms, and 36% had severe symptoms. 44% also reported suicidal thoughts. This compared to the control group of which 10% reported mild depressive symptoms and only 3% had suicidal thoughts.
“The potential life-threatening side-effects associated with finasteride should prompt clinicians to have serious discussions with their patients. The preliminary findings of this study warrant further research.” said Dr. Irwig. This study was published in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry.