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The Acne Drug Accutane More Than Doubles Depression Risk

More evidence has come in on the dangerous side effects of Accutane, the powerful acne drug, that is also known as Roaccutane in Europe. A Canadian study confirms that Accutane increases depression risk. The study found that Accutane more than doubles the risk of depression.

The study is the first controlled investigation to find a statistically substantiated link between isotretinoin (the active ingredient in Accutane) and depression, Dr. Anick Berard, from CHU Sainte-Justine Research Centre in Montreal, and colleagues stated in a report in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry.

The researchers studied 30,496 people from Quebec who had at least one prescription of Accutane between 1984 and 2003. Among these people, 126 had a reported depression case. The researchers looked for Accutane use five months before the reported depression case (risk period) and compared it to a five-month control period. After adjusting for potential risk factors for depression, the study found that exposure to Accutane increases the risk of depression by 2.6 times.

The research report finishes by recommending that "current guidelines should possibly be modified to include psychiatric assessments of patients prior to and during isotretinoin therapy."

There are two known pathways Accutane can lead to depression: lower availability of serotonin and decreased brain activity in the areas that mediate depression.

Earlier research has shown that Accutane reduces the availability of the neurotransmitter serotonin. Serotonin is also known as the "feel good" hormone. Low levels of serotonin have been linked consistently to many psychiatric symptoms, such as aggression, anxiety disorders, and suicidal ideation. Naturalnews reported about the study here: Suicide Link to Acne Drug Officially Established.

Among other side effects, Accutane increases sensitivity to sunlight. And dermatologists advice patients to avoid sunlight while on Accutane treatment. Sunlight is known to increase serotonin levels, and avoiding sunlight may further increase the problem with serotonin levels.

Another study, published at the American Journal of Psychiatry in 2005, found that Accutane was associated with decreased brain metabolism in the orbitofrontal cortex. Orbiofrontal cortex is the brain area known to counter symptoms of depression. Once you understand the history of Accutane, these side effects shouldn't come as a surprise.
Chemotherapy drug for acne

Accutane is a cancer drug. Bet you didn't know that. Isotretinoin, the active ingredient in Accutane, was originally developed as a chemotherapy drug. During the chemotherapy trials doctors noticed patients' acne clearing.

What do we know of chemotherapy drugs? They are among the most dangerous poisons. Chemotherapy treatment often does serious damage to the body. And, if the patient is lucky, may have a little effect on cancer. In this context it's no wonder the list of Accutane's side effects looks truly frightening. Ranging from chapped lips to heart attacks, serious organ damage and suicides. Click here for a complete list of Accutane's side effects.
Do the benefits of Accutane warrant such risks?

The fact remains that only a small percentage of the patients treated with Accutane develop severe side effects. Still, just because you don't develop acute symptoms from Accutane doesn't mean Accutane is safe for you. It causes damage to everybody who takes it. But in many cases the body can handle it in a way that doesn't produce immediate symptoms.

Accutane is often dubbed as the "Miracle Drug" because it works where no other (allopathic) acne treatment does. It is said to work up to 85% of the cases. As dermatologists often argue, in the balance sheet of tragedy, Accutane has the least awful bottom line -- it saves more lives than it costs. This might be true, if Accutane had no effective alternatives and would permanently cure acne. If this were the case, many acne victims would agree to face the risk. Because acne, though not fatal, can have serious psychological effects and devastate a person's self-esteem and social life.

But there are alternatives. Acne, like being overweight, is a lifestyle problem. And it responds quickly to dietary and lifestyle changes. Dietary and lifestyle changes are the holy grail of acne treatments. They can give you the permanent freedom you are looking for. And in the process profoundly increase the quality of your life. Something that Accutane or other prescription drugs can never do.

And many acne victims find their new found, Accutane-given freedom much too temporary. Often acne returns as quickly as six months after the treatment.

In the end you are left with one question. How much are you willing to risk for temporary freedom?

-Seppo Puusa