Severe acne increases suicide risk, even with successful treatment

Mechele R. Dillard's picture

Individuals with severe acne may be at a greater risk for suicide, reports British Medical Journal. Additionally, successful treatment may not alleviate the additional risk.

Link between severe acne drug treatment and suicide attempts may not be valid

Authors of the study have found a possible connection between the severe acne treatment, isotretinoin, and additional suicide risk in patients, but the researchers emphasize that they feel that the additional suicide risk is due to the severe acne itself, not the drug treatment.

According to Dr. Anders Sundstrom from the Karolinska Institute in Sweden, data was assessed on acne sufferers who used isotretinoin from 1980 to 1989. These patients were then linked to hospital discharge and cause of death registers from 1980-2001.

Results of the study reveal that 128 patients in a study of 5,756 individuals were admitted to a hospital after a suicide attempt. Dr. Sundstrom and his colleagues report that risks of suicide were highest within six months of treatment end, although suicide attempts did increase between one and three years before starting isotretinoin treatment.

Dr. Sundstrom said the increased risk after isotretinoin may be connected with expectations of the patient. Risk may increase, he said, if the patient’s physical appearance improved with treatment, but was not followed by an improvement in their social life. While they do acknowledge the possibility that the actual exposure to the drug could increase the risk, Sundstrom and colleagues believe "a more probable interpretation is that the underlying severe acne may best explain the raised risk,” the researchers reported in British Medical Journal.

The researchers did stress that attempted suicide was not common among the isotretinoin users, with one first suicide attempt equating to 2,300 individuals using the drug. This rate of suicide-to-medication rate also assumes that all increased risks are due to the use of the drug, which is not how the researchers are interpreting their data.

According to Dr. Sundstrom and his colleagues, "the most important proactive measure to be taken would be to closely monitor all patients' psychiatric status, not only during treatment, but also for at least a year after treatment with isotretinoin." They also suggest monitoring severe acne patients not using the drug as treatment.

Isotretinoin is commonly marketed as Roaccutane, Accutane, Amnesteem, Claravis, Clarus or Decutan, and has been used to treat severe acne since the 1980s.

Read about additional research involving acne and depression on
Severe acne leads to suicidal thoughts in young people
Project explores link between acne treatment and depression

Add new comment