Chronic hair-pulling or trichotillomania is estimated to affect between 0.5-3% of people. It can cause bald patches and anxiety and sufferers can even end up pulling out other people's hair. Antidepressants and other drugs have, generally, been found not to be helpful but researchers at the Minnesota School of Medicine in Minneapolis have been trying out an over-the-counter drug called N-acetylcysteine. They studied 50 people with trichotillomania over a 12-week period doubling the dose of N-acetylcysteine after six weeks if there had been no improvement. Compared to a placebo group 56% of people taking N-acetylcysteine were 'much or very much improved' compared to only 16% in the placebo group. It is thought that N-acetylcysteine boosts the supply of the neurotransmitter glutamate in the brain.
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