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Treating Compulsive Hair-Pulling

Q. I have suffered from trichotillomania for years, and I am desperate for some help. I just can’t seem to stop pulling out my hair. I heard that there is an amino acid being used to treat this condition and hope you can tell me more.

A. Trichotillomania, or compulsive hair pulling, can be difficult to treat. You may have heard about N-acetylcysteine (NAC), a building block for the amino acid L-cysteine. NAC is sold as a dietary supplement, but it is also used as a prescription medicine.

A double-blind placebo-controlled study found that NAC reduced hair-pulling symptoms significantly after about nine weeks (Archives of General Psychiatry, July, 2009). NAC caused no side effects in this study at doses of 1200 to 2400 mg/day.

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About the Author
Terry Graedon, PhD, is a medical anthropologist and co-host of The People’s Pharmacy radio show, co-author of The People’s Pharmacy syndicated newspaper columns and numerous books, and co-founder of The People’s Pharmacy website. Terry taught in the Duke University School of Nursing and was an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology. She is a Fellow of the Society of Applied Anthropology. Terry is one of the country's leading authorities on the science behind folk remedies..
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