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.
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.
“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.
“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.
“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…
“My skin was always a problem from a young age and taking Roaccutane was a final resort because I’d taken everything else. It helped a lot with my skin and I now pretty much have no acne left except the odd spot. However I suffer with cystic acne which means when I do get a spot it is a cyst/boil type spot which are very very painful. I experienced very bad side effects from the drug being in pain the whole time I was on the drug.
“I wasn’t put on anything after the drug which did cause my body to go into shock and I did experience bad skin and spots afterwards only on my face. The only thing I’m on now is a cream for my skin which I went to the doctors and was given three weeks ago, but this was at my request.
I also use a product from the chemist called magnesium sulphate which is a oily thick paste which I apply to a plaster and put on my cysts. This is extremely painful as it pulls out all the crap from my pores.”
Symptoms can vary but one stays the same…
Charlie Harris was 15 when he was prescribed the drug, before that he was given a roller and a cream which would treat my acne but both had minimal effects.
“When I started taking the drug, there were no negative side effects, my acne had almost disappeared and my mood had increased, it wasn’t until a few months into the course when I started to get the negative side effects.
“I started to become more and more upset over nothing, I could not sleep, I could not eat and I could not think straight, I was in a very bad place and did not know why, this became very worrying as I was trying to focus on school, friends and myself and I couldn’t manage it all. Eventually I went to my GP to discuss why I was feeling so low, he mentioned my medication and he strongly recommended that I was to stop taking it, I followed his advice and almost immediately I felt better, although my acne came back, it never came back as bad as it was previously and I have never felt that low since, I have spoken to many people about the drug and we have all said that it is a hugely negative drug and can cause serious mood swings and depression.
“I now use Austrian body care body wash on my back and I no longer suffer from my acne, it’s incredibly, I would strongly recommend anyone on the drug to stop using it is they feel low and as soon as they feel low, they should stop immediately.”
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.