- Health Care, Drugs & Insurance
Is Accutane Worth The Risks? My Experience
Starting in about 3rd grade, my skin was horrible. And when I say horrible, I mean it was so bad that I refuse to show my "Before" pictures. I hide my skin behind layers of foundation and kids at school laughed at how bad it was. I tried almost every treatment possible to get rid of my acne. I used creams, lotions, pills, microdermabrasion, blue-light laser treatments, chemical peels, and more. NOTHING worked. If anything, it got worse.
I had heard a lot about the prescription medicine Accutane. I'd read reviews about how it can cause Chron's disease, mutate unborn babies and make teenagers kill themselves. I also heard that it was a miracle drug.
For months, I thought about getting on Accutane. I did extensive research, looked at "Before and After" pictures, and dreamed about how much better my life would be if I had clear skin. Then, a distant relative of mine died of Chron's disease at the age of 22.
After the death of my second cousin, I started to rethink Accutane. After all, clear skin isn't worth dying over. But, I decided to talk to my dermatologist anyway to see if the claims were true.
When I finally got called back to her office, I told the aide that I wanted to try Accutane. At that time, my face was covered in scars, pimples and red blotches that no amount of makeup could hide. She told me she'd talk to my doctor for me.
The dermatologist I went to had known me for years and knew about my skin problems. She told me that most doctors only prescribe medicines like Accutane as a last resort, but that I was definitely a last resort. I got really hopeful and excited. Maybe I could look pretty for once!
To be on Accutane (which is now only available in generic brands), women have to be on two types of birth control and sign a pledge that they won't get pregnant. Babies born on Accutane have a huge risk of developing a birth defect, like being born without ears. I had just had my first son, so I was fine with waiting for another. Every month, I had to go to Planned Parenthood to take a pregnancy test and bring the results to my dermatologist before I could get another prescription.
You also have to get your cholesterol level checked every few months because your levels can go sky-high. My bad cholesterol ended up going into the 500s, so they took me off a month early, but after less than two months I was right back into the normal range.
Before starting Accutane, I asked my dermatologist about the risk for Chron's disease, and she told me that some studies have been done recently that show that Accutane does NOT cause Chron's disease. She also told me that the risk of Accutane causing suicidal thoughts is so low that it isn't something to worry about, and if one of her patients was to ever start getting depressed or feeling suicidal, she would have them stop their medicine completely.
One side effect that I did have was extremely chapped lips. It bothered me for a while, but then someone told me to try using Aquaphor, which chemotherapy patients use. I bought a big tub of Aquaphor ointment and my problem was solved immediately.
After 5 months, I was done with the treatments. Sometimes people need an increased dose or another round of treatments, but after my first round, I was done. A few months after stopping I started to break out again, but then it went back away, and now my skin is completely free of pimples for the first time since I was 7.
WARNING: It's important to take care of your skin even when it becomes clear by washing it with an acne-treatment soap and using medicine on any spot you get. If you forget to wash your face, you can start breaking out again just as bad as before. Also, Accutane doesn't get rid of scars, but when you have been off it for 3 months or more you're allowed to start getting dermabrasion and chemical peels, which can really help.
Did Accutane make a difference for your acne?
So, is Accutane worth the so-called risks of Chron's disease and suicide? In my opinion, yes. Studies show that Accutane does not have a link to Chron's disease unless the person is already suffering from it (which can make it slightly worsen), and the risk of suicide and depression is very low and can be prevented. In my case, Accutane made me happier, because I got to see my clear skin every time I looked in the mirror and my confidence was raised.
To anyone thinking about taking Accutane, I would say that it is worth a try. Some brands can be expensive (my first dose was $112 for one month), but depending on your insurance, you can get it for as little as $10. In my case, switching to a different generic brand lowered my cost by almost $100. As long as you aren't pregnant and don't have a pre-existing condition like Chron's disease or suicidal thoughts, the good will most likely outweigh the bad.
I know how hard dealing with bad acne is, and I wish the best for anyone who is going through it. Hopefully, Accutane will be the miracle drug you always dreamed of.