Is Roaccutane really acne’s ‘wonder drug’?

Roaccutane hits the headlines frequently: “Devastated parents claim their son, 21, killed himself after side effects from an acne drug he took at 16 made him ‘obsessive, compulsive’ and eventually ‘suicidal” is just one of many horror stories. The acne drug claims lives and causes life long physical effects.

However, there are miracle stories out there: “http://Woman who suffered such severe acne that people thought she had CHICKEN POX displays her incredible transformation after taking a controversial drug to clear her skin

Roaccutane has an over 80% success rate, and most patients will only need one four- to five-month cycle of the drug to be cured. Not just improved people, but cured. Is this the answer to every acne sufferers prayers?

The acne treatment dubbed ‘the wonder drug’ creates thousands of these case studies every year – why does it work for some and not for others?  Is it the wonder drug? Are the effects long lasting? Does it cure acne for good? So, lets take a look at some case studies.

For me, for a period of time, it was. (Read about my own journey on the drug here) However, for me, (like many others) the effects haven’t been life long. Two years later and I’m now suffering from what the doctor two weeks ago referred to as ‘very mild acne’. Upsettingly, because of the drug my skin is now prone to scarring and redness – one spot may be mild but the redness can stay for two months. Digest that, really think about it and do the math – if I have five spots a week for two months that’s forty red marks that just aren’t disappearing fast enough.

These two photos were taken within the first month of stopping the treatment – I wanted to show my new smooth skin and confidence to the world. I wanted to sing from the rooftops how my six month treatment had been hell but now I was in heaven.

One year later and the spots started to reappear. Admittedly, not as bad as before. Most of my friends claimed they hadn’t even noticed – maybe that’s because I slap my makeup on every morning, maybe it’s not that bad or maybe I just have really supportive friends. The spots turned into mild acne within the space of four months and now I’m on three different acne treatments – I admit that this is a complete over reaction on my behalf. The spots aren’t that bad. I’m just not prepared to tolerate acne, whether mild or severe, because I will not get back to the point where Roaccutane seems the only option.

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Current acne treatments prescribed.

The three acne treatments I told my GP I wanted were: Dianette (popular contraceptive pill now solely prescribed for acne), Lymecycline (antibiotics) and Epiduo (cream). Tick, tick, tick. 

My acne relapse has been put down to a hormonal shift. A quick little Google and I found that this isn’t unusual for young women who use the drug. I’m twenty years old and any change in my hormones (which at my age is pretty constant) can upset natural balance and trigger acne.

All the photos above were taken within the same week: makeup, acne scarring, lighting and redness can massively effect how my skin looks. I still support Roccutane, it has changed my life and my skin is so much better, though I would’ve done the treatment in a few years time when my hormones weren’t so prone to these little ups and downs. However, anyone considering using the treatment should listen to all the after math stories of the drug, from miracles to the sob stories.

Let’s kick off on a high note…

Josh Evans, 19, had acne from his early teens and after completing the course three years ago he’s still singing its praises and hasn’t seen a spot since!

“I had acne from about the age of 12, it started getting really bad when I turned 13 ish. I tried many other spot treatments and none of them seemed to work. So, Roaccutane was a last resort. I was very sceptical about it due to some of the side effects, personally I didn’t experience many side effects just occasional nausea, and unexpected mood swings.

josh

Josh Evans three years later!

“I took the course of Roaccutane, and within a couple of months I could start noticing a difference. The one thing that was bad, was that the scheme got worse before it got better. It brought all of the spots out to completely clear them. So there was plenty of irritation with it.

“I’ve been off Roaccutane for 3 years or so now and I’ve had no problem with Acne since. I would highly recommend Roaccutane to anyone who is suffering from acne. It does really work!! But as I previously said it gets worse before it gets better!’

However, other people aren’t singing such high praises…

Thirteen was more than just an unlucky number for Sam Clark, this was the age his acne first hit.

“I became extremely self conscious when people would make comments for example about how spotty my back was in the changing rooms after PE. I was also particularly worried that my acne would turn into scars as I have a genetic condition which predisposes me to cuts bruises and scars and was worried if my acne continued at this level my face and back would be permanently scarred.

“My friend who also suffered from acne recommended I tried a course of Roaccutane as it had helped clear his skin almost completely. My mum was skeptical at first as she thought it was best to run its course naturally but for me I was too self conscious to not give it a try so after an appointment and a few questions from our local GP I began the course.

sam cc

Sam in 2012.

“After the first week or so I initially saw the benefits of taking Roaccutane as my skin became clearer of acne and old scars began to naturally fade with time. However deeper into the course I started to noticed some of the negative side effects my GP had warned about such as dry skin and cracking lips. This wasn’t enough for me to stop taking the Roaccutane however, as even with the dry/itchy/painful skin the general appearance of my skin had overall improved so so far I thought the negative side effects were worth it.

“Then about 3-4 weeks into the course someone at school pointed out to me that I had a bald patch on the side of my head. This immediately made me even more self conscious than my acne had previously so I went to the GP to see what was happening to me. He stated that bald spots weren’t a common reaction from taking Roaccutane but I wasn’t convinced so considering I was now less confident and more self conscious I decided to stop taking Roaccutane and hope that this would reverse the hair loss.

“After a few weeks off the course my acne gradually began to return (not as bad as before however) along with my hair so I made the connection and decided that Roaccutane wasn’t for me and haven’t taken it since. From my own experience I would not recommend Roaccutane to someone else just because it’s usually taken by people who are already self conscious and side effects such as hair loss will definitely not help with that, however everyone’s body and hormones respond differently to different drugs and I have also had other people recommend Roaccutane to me so it would be best for a prospective patient to hear as many people’s stories as possible to make an informed decision.

sam c

Oct 2016.

“I haven’t tried anything remotely like Roaccutane for six years now and my skin has only just over the past two or so years began to mellow out and become clearer. These days I have followed a more natural routine of using face washes with natural extracts and drinking plenty of water along with a varied diet. This won’t work for everyone as different hormonal levels more often than not play the largest role in whether you will suffer from acne or not but at the moment it seems to be working for me.”

However, not all stories end with happily ever afters…

To include the case studies mentioned in this article I tweeted to my blogs followers to find anyone who had had an experience with the drug and here is one of the replies I received. Sadly the father didn’t want to comment any further however stories like these are not uncommon.

Until another treatment is brought on the market Roaccutane prescriptions will continue to rise, and with it so will the controversy. Sadly, so will the horror stories and suicide stats. The drug changed my life and I would never 100% rule out using it again if it was necessary. However, it’s important (whether it’s yourself or a friend/relative who is going to use the drug) to understand the symptoms and warning signs. Roaccutane can change a life, but it can also ruin one.

6 comments

  1. Hey, I found this really interesting – I was recommended roaccutane after a long and tiring stretch of years jumping from different drugs. I was shocked after doing my own research that the dermatologist didn’t ask if there was a history of depression/suicide in the family and if I had ever suffered from depression myself.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I am so shocked that you were never asked this? Are you currently debating doing a course of the treatment or? I’d love to know more.
      Thank you so much for reading my piece! I’ve written two others on Roaccutane too – let me know if you want to see those (or just search my site)!

      Like

  2. No I was really upset thinking of the side effects, it all sounded so negative and I didn’t want to risk the really negative impacts. In my first appointment she gave me a leaflet to read through and signed me straight up! I know that roaccutane has worked wonders for so many people but I think it should come with more of a warning. Thankfully my skin is getting better without using it but I am still so shocked that I didn’t get asked these (v important) questions.

    Like

      • When I stopped taking prescription drugs I didn’t use anything on my face apart from water and a sensitive moisturiser – and I was careful with what makeup I used. I still get spots, but nowhere near as bad as I used to – very glad I didn’t feel forced to go down the roaccutane route!!

        Like

      • That’s fantastic!!! So happy for you that your skin has cleared up without having to endure the treatment!! My acne is 100% hormonal so currently on acne treatment again now. Life’s a bitch but with medication it’s good so!

        Liked by 1 person

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